In any conversation, the ability to listen is just as crucial as speaking. In communications, a willingness to learn is just as important as the outreach effort. So while the NFL's labor dispute is big news at present, now is the time for the National Basketball Association to take notes as it faces a work stoppage once its current season is concluded.
The NFL's situation caught nobody off guard. What was surprising was the lack of verbal vitriol be-tween the opposing factions: the players and owners. Perhaps both realized that when millionaires quarrel with billionaires over a $9 billion revenue pie, public sentiment is in short supply.
Unfortunately, the decorum didn't last. The barbs are flying freely now. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had the most startling comment, likening the player's plight to "modern-day slavery" in a recent interview with Yahoo Sports.
Fans just want their football games to be played, so it's hard for either side in the dispute to portray any of this in a positive light. However, the reason there is a $9 billion pie to fight over is because the sport is insanely popular. As long as a compromise is reached in a reasonable amount of time, the fans will be back.
The NBA's communications conundrum could be more severe because a work stoppage's impact will likely be worse.
Each NFL team only plays one game a week and, as of now, eight home games a year. (The owners want to add two more games to the season, which is another point of contention.) Each NFL team plays on a national network, so there is no local TV deal to fret about. An NBA team's contests, which take place three or four times a week, are not the weekly "events" football games are. In some NBA cities, teams are losing money due to fan apathy. Imagine their reaction to millionaires battling billionaires?
The NBA does not have the luxury to say, "The fans will surely return," at least not in all 29 cities that have teams. How both sides conduct themselves in the media will matter. How quickly a resolution is found - and the good or bad faith in which both sides negotiate - will matter. Or worse yet, it might not matter after a while because fans will stop caring and coming to watch. If the NBA doesn't learn from the episodes of others, especially the NFL's ongoing drama, it stands to lose quite a lot.
Gideon Fidelzeid is the managing editor of PRWeek. He can be contacted at email@example.com.