“The purpose of Occupy Wall Street is to reclaim the country from corporate interests. The protesters feel as though their political system has been hijacked by Wall Street’s corporations, and as a result their elected officials now serve the interests of the wealthy upper 1 percenters instead of what they call the ‘99 percent.’ ” —Allison Kilkenny, Citizen Radio
After decades of corporate greed run amok, a viral clarion call has sounded to strike back and “occupy everywhere.” What started as several dozen people saying they would “occupy Wall Street” has become a national movement. Now we have thousands of people who are part of Occupy Boston, Occupy DC, Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy Las Vegas, even Occupy Nebraska. Now we have labor organizations like the Transit Workers Union and 1199 joining the charge. Now it’s high time to take this movement and bring it to the National Basketball Association. We need to “Occupy the NBA.”
Why not? Do you really want to talk about corporate greed piledriving the interests of “the other 99 percent”? Look no further than the NBA. The League’s billionaire owners have locked their doors and threatened to cancel the 2011-12 season following the most lucrative year in league history. They haven’t only locked out the players union but thousands of low-wage workers—the people cleaning the arenas, parking the cars and selling the overpriced flat, foamy swill the league calls beer. They’ve also locked out secretaries and scouts, managers and mascots. Somewhere in Phoenix there’s a guy in a gorilla suit with a sign that reads, “Will dunk for food.”
It’s Wall Street’s version of the high pick-and-roll, their go-to play: magically turning our tax dollars into their profits. Look at the billions that have gone to NBA arenas while public workers are laid off and the infrastructure of our cities rot. As economist David Berri has noted, $2 billion has gone into building eight new facilities. Of that amount, 84 percent, $1.75 billion, has come out of our pockets. That number also doesn’t include the $2 billion in tax dollars being funneled into the Atlantic Yards Project for the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets. David Stern’s claim that twenty-three of thirty owners are “losing money” on the NBA, while leaving public subsidies out of his math, only demonstrates his ugly contempt for us 99 percenters.
Is it the arrogance of the privileged class that makes your blood boil? Listen to Ted Leonsis, the owner of the NBA’s Washington Wizards. In September, Leonsis said, “Economic Success has somehow become the new boogie man; some in the Democratic party are now casting about for enemies and business leaders and anyone who has achieved success in terms of rank or fiscal success is being cast as a bad guy in a black hat. This is counter to the American Dream and is really turning off so many people that love America and basically carry our country on their back by paying taxes and by employing people.” So we pay for their stadiums, we buy their sweatshop-stitched crap, we work for poverty wages at the park and they’re carrying us on their back? Please kiss me where the good Lord split me.