The NBA Players' Action: Stop Saying "Boycott"--It Was A Strike

We’re striking unless these concrete demands are met
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The NBA. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

I’m sure all of you are aware that the NBA, WNBA along with some of the MLB teams agreed collectively to strike over the past week. But you wouldn’t hear the news media and players call it that. Instead the corporate media opt to use the term “boycott”. Not only is this definitionally incorrect, but it undersells what the players are actually doing.

First let’s define our terms; A boycott is when money is withheld by coconsumers, whereas a strike is when labor is withheld by the workers. These are clearly two very different things.

Now there is another caveat to this, as this strike wasn’t, from what I’ve been told, approved by the NBA Players Association. So this isn’t just a strike, this is a wildcat strike.
Second, I’d like to make the case that this completely undersells their act of solidarity. When you allow this to be called a boycott, you’re giving an out for the brand, the owner. You do this by allowing the people who stand to lose from a strike, into this process and into the decision making. You allow them to help set the narrative. You see this with “teams” releasing their own statements outside of the player’s statements.

You also completely fold on your bargaining power. “We’re striking unless these concrete demands are met,” and “We don’t feel right playing today” are two very different messages being received by the audience.
One says, “We’re standing for something and we’re withholding our labor power until we get it” and the other “We’re mourning and don’t feel like playing”.

One of these tactics puts you in a position of power and gives you leverage against capital, the other puts you in a place of vulnerability and disorganization. One of these is something that could start a general strike, the other will not.

Finally, I’d like to explain why this happened--why they called it a boycott. The biggest reason they called this a boycott is because the language of the working class has been stripped from the American vocabulary. Words like “strike”, “wildcat strike”, and “scab”. They probably didn’t call this a strike because it's just not a word used often anymore.

Also we must recognize that although these are workers, they are very wealthy and well-connected workers. They probably went to seek advice from some of the wrong people (Barack Obama comes to mind).

There are always scabs to create doubt in the power that workers have. In any case, I support what the players did, I just wish they took advantage of the opportunity they had. It would’ve been nice to have some concrete demands, a lot more outreach, and most importantly, the players should’ve called for a general strike, because god damnit we’re ready for it.

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