Blog #10: Power & Conflict - NBA

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The most interesting lecture in this class was Kenny Mauer's guest appearance. Many times in the professional sport industry we have seen debates, strikes, and conflict surrounding contracts and salaries. Before Kenny spoke with us, I had never heard a first hand story or opinion on the topic. The conflict that Kenny presented was between the referees of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the NBA itself. Kenny, being a veteran official of the NBA gave us great insight into the previous conflicts that he had dealt with. He personally had experienced multiple times when the NBA officials were dealing with contractual changes, most of which turned into strikes. The conflict that Kenny and other NBA officials dealt with was vertical conflict, which arises between different hierarchical levels of an organization (Slack, & Parent, 2006). The conflict arose between the league commissioner, David Stern, and the NBA officials. The conflict occurred because David Stern was attempting to change the officials contracts, which affected their salaries in a negative way. Kenny mentioned that there were quite a few younger officials that had never seen a strike before and these officials were more likely to believe David Stern about how great of a contract they were receiving than to listen to the veteran officials about continuing to hold out. This is a demonstration of legitimate and coercive power. David Stern, because of his position as league commissioner, has the legitimate power (Slack, & Parent, 2006). With his legitimate power he can make the decisions on what he want the officials contracts to consist of. He also used coercive power to instill fear into the younger officials. David Stern acquired new officials while the NBA officials were on strike and claimed that if a decision were not reached about the contracts then he would use the new officials all year. This would result in the young officials missing out on an entire year of their contract. Kenny Mauer stated that there was no way the NBA would use unqualified officials for an entire season, but the younger officials were scared that David Stern would. Ultimately the coercive power must have had a significant impact on the officials because they ended up voting in favor of the new contracts much sooner than Kenny Mauer and other veteran officials would have liked.

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I think this post highlights an interesting type of dichotomy that comes with power and what kind of power an individual wields. Ben commented on the kind of power that NBA Commissioner David Stern has at his disposal. I think we as a class have a different understanding on exactly how much power Commissioner Stern wields courtesy of our lecture from Kenny Mauer. I think the biggest part of this post that rings true with me is that Stern wields a tremendous amount of coercive power. And considering what our class knows about how the NBA operates I don't think there's a better word for how David Stern operates than "coercive." I think Ben really found a great example of exactly how power can be used in a damaging way and I say that with the caveat that the NBA itself is not a bad organization but that the leadership of this organization uses his power in a way that demonstrates a lack of care for his employees. I think this use or abuse of power is really indicative of how power can be used in a negative manner and Ben did a great job of identifying this fact.

In regards to Organizational Conflict and Power, I think Ben did a great job outlining how this real life event is connected to our course content. David Stern's legitimate power is not only visible in this situation, but also visible in the conflict over the Seattle Sonics and their move to Oklahoma City. Commissioner Stern used his power within the NBA to help drive decisions he believed were best for the future of the league, which included moving the franchise in Seattle. There was little the former owners of the Sonics could do after the sale of the team, and the new set of owners with the backing of Stern's power, were able to force their way out of Seattle.

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