Talk with D-Rok: Sterling and symbionts
The sports world is abuzz this week with the news about Donald Sterling, the Buffalo Jills cheerleading squad and John E. Williams III’s lawsuit against the Seattle Seahawks. All these issues are just symptoms of a bigger problem, however. Parts of a whole got to thinking they could operate just as well without the other parts.
One of the things that I love about sports is that they act as a microscope that enable us to clearly see our culture in a way that would be impossible if we looked at society as a whole. It’s the cliché of not being able to see the forest through the trees.
Sterling’s banishment from the NBA has resulted from a clear case of narrow vision and a poor understanding of labor relations. Among Sterling’s infamous comments about his players were his expression that his players needed him because it was he that put food on their table and gave them a place to live. While it’s true that he is the owner of the team, that he was the sole source of all their worldly goods is errantly simplistic.
The reality in professional sports is that the majority of the money which pays players’ salaries comes not from the owner’s wallet but from the varied and many companies who pay to have their product advertised during radio and television broadcasts. After that, the next biggest revenue stream is a combination of ticket sales, merchandising royalties and concessions splits.
Sterling was the figurehead at the top of all the operations. He chose to fly too close to the sun, though. He forgot that the share of the revenue he gets comes from the same place as the players. The heat that his ego has brought has melted the wax in his wings.
The same thing is true of the Buffalo Jills story. If the allegations of the five former Buffalo Bills cheerleaders are true, then the Bills’ brass fell into the same trap of thinking their situation would go unchanged no matter how poorly they treated these women. To pull a line from a Star Wars movie, “you are symbionts. What happens to one will affect the other. You must understand this.”
Not only do those in positions of power in sports need those who work underneath them in the hierarchy, but the opposite is true as well. Williams has filed a suit against the Seahawks, alleging that they fixed this past January’s NFC Championship game by restricting who could purchase tickets to the game.
By filing the suit, Williams has lost sight of his place as well. Seattle is part of the same league that his beloved 49ers are a part of, the NFL. The NFL runs not on the immaterial sentiments of its fans, but on dollars. By trying to take money from the league and change the rules that have made it as prosperous as it is, he is biting the hand that feeds him his beloved professional football.
These trees have enabled us to see the forest of an important lesson. That lesson is that we need each other. When any person or group gets to thinking that it/he/she can thrive independently of the structures and/or individuals that have brought it to its current level of success, that party is in danger of losing the ground gained.
Don’t forget where you’ve come from and appreciate those who have helped you along the way. Failing to do so will land you in the same place Sterling has found himself, on the outside looking in to what was just hours ago yours.