Tommy Heinsohn, union man and labor agitator

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On Tuesday, former Boston Celtics’ player, coach, and longtime announcer Tommy Heinsohn passed away. He was 86, and while best-known at this point in his life for the extremely, let’s say, Celtics-friendly announcing style he employed, he was a legit basketball legend in Boston thanks to his three careers in the sport: Heinsohn is in the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach, one of just four individuals to accomplish that feat, and had a championship ring for all 10 fingers.

Heinsohn was also a labor agitator as a player, if you’re wondering why you’re reading about him in this particular newsletter. He was the president of the players union back in 1964, which ended up being a monumental year for the players. You see, like with the Major League Baseball Players Association, the National Basketball Players Association was a union without league recognition in its early years. They had actually formed back in 1954, but it took 10 years for the NBA to actually meet with and recognize them as a union. And this eventual recognition was managed in no small part thanks to the actions of Heinsohn himself, in his role as union president.

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The NBA’s players might not want NBA approval anymore

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Earlier this month, I published a piece in this space that discussed, in part, how NBA players had missed an opportunity to wield their collective power by giving in to the league and resuming the season amid a pandemic and nationwide Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality. Nathaniel Friedman and Jesse Einhorn, at The New Republic, went much further and deeper on that particular angle in a feature titled, “The Dismal Politics of the Sports World’s “Wokest” League.”

Within that piece, Friedman and Einhorn explained how there were two opposing camps when it came to the return: the one led by Kyrie Irving and Avery Bradley wanted to tackle this moment in time by not playing, and instead do what they could to help and bring attention to the Black Lives Matter protests. The other camp, led by LeBron James, was more in concert with the NBA, with a different vision of activism. One more corporately approved, the thinking behind which led to this graph from the New Republic pair:

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The sports world could use more Jaylen Browns

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Sports aren’t taking coronavirus resources from the public, unless they are

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We have been assured, again and again, that there are enough coronavirus tests available that athletes being continually tested throughout the return of sports won’t be taking away tests from the public. This is a point I have a hard time believing on its face, because no one has bothered to show the math on that yet, but I’m willing to acknowledge that it might be the truth. The thing is, though, that this line, that there are enough tests to go around and resources aren’t being taken away from the public in order to test and retest and retest athletes yet again, is still misleading. Because even if there are enough tests, it’s clear there aren’t enough or robust enough labs to analyze all of the tests: it doesn’t matter if you have enough tests if you lack the machines or technicians to analyze them all in a timely fashion.

Priority is being given to athletes over regular people, and that is where the resource issue is.

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Let’s look at some athletes trying to help during the pandemic

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MLB’s teams need to pay their concession workers, too

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On March 17, Major League Baseball announced that each of its 30 teams would set aside $1 million to pay stadium workers during the postponement of the 2020 regular season. With the COVID-19 pandemic here for an indefinite stay, it’s unknown when America, never mind MLB, will be able to return to business as usual. That $1 million is a start toward making sure those sports workers impacted by the postponement of the season — who usually make less than $15 an hour — are taken care of.

The emphasis there, though, should be on how this is a start. That $1 million per team isn’t going to last very long, not with the sheer volume of employees needed to run a stadium on an administrative level and to keep its grounds in order. Outside of that, though, are also tens of thousands of concessions workers. While MLB and its teams pulled in positive press for the headline-worthy assistance package worth $30 million, it doesn’t even begin to cover all of the workers that make live baseball possible.

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Here’s how the Lakers qualified for a Payment Protection Program loan

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The program that is supposed to keep small businesses afloat during situations like that of the COVID-19 pandemic is the Payroll Protection Program, or PPP. It’s not exactly doing its job — at least in terms of what you might imagine that job to be — for a number of reasons, one of which merits mention here, thanks to the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers received a $4.6 million loan from the PPP. The Lakers, who are worth $4.4 billion according to Forbes, who generated nearly half-a-billion in revenue (and $178 million in operating income) just last season despite being a garbage fire, received nearly $5 million from a government program, and at the expense, hypothetically, of some Los Angeles-based business or another that isn’t worth 10 figures.

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Apparently, sports will save the economy

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MLB wants to return by June, but that seems impossible

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COVID-19 sheds light on inequality, in sports and beyond

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