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A SWAT for trying to call a foul on the NBA’s age limit

Submitted by on Friday, 24 July 2009 No Comment

Note to Tennessee Rep. Steven Cohen: Kobe Bryant comes along only once in a generation. Except when LeBron James comes along seven years later. But by and large, the average teen-ager  isn’t ready to leap from high school to the NBA.

Yeah, Cohen’s right that the current system requiring players to be 19 and a year out of high school before an NBA team can draft them – a relatively new system put in place three years after James entered the league – serves colleges more than it does players.

When the best graduation rate the NCAA can gin up for men’s basketball is 65 percent – the federal government says it’s only 49 percent – it’s hard to pretend that college ball is little more than higher education in the high post.

But is this really something Congress needs to spend time on? Don’t we have some health-care and economic issues to address?

Apparently not this week, when Cohen took the time to call the NBA president out on the policy.

“It’s a vestige of slavery,” Cohen told The New York Times last month.

Get overly dramatic much?

For NBA Commissioner David Stern, it’s just business.

“This is not about the NCAA, this is not an enforcement of some social program,” Stern told the Times. “This is a business decision by the N.B.A., which is: We like to see our players in competition after high school.”

But Cohen objects to those who run the business making those decisions.

“I am concerned that the careers of young men who possess all the skills necessary to succeed in the NBA,” Cohen wrote, “may be sacrificed in favor of the bottom lines of the teams on which they hope to play.”

What a stunning concept: Employees are sacrificed in favor of the bottom line. Someone should look into that.

Cohen became interested in the issue when two University of Memphis players – the college is in his district – had “one year and out” players each of the past two seasons.

“They’re forced to go to school when they have no desire or interest in going to school,” he told the Times.

A fair point. But one that’s worth spending congressional time on writing letters and researching legalities?

The legalities are easy to figure out. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was part of a three-judge panel that upheld the National Football League’s “three years out of high school” rule in 2004. The Supreme Court refused to hear a appeal of that ruling.

Sotomayor and the two other judges said that unions had the right to collectively bargain such a restriction with employers.

And that’s exactly where any discussion of the NBA’s limit belongs now: At the bargaining table, when the current labor contract expires in two years.

Meanwhile, Rep. Cohen, Stop Wasting America’s Time. Your Web site lists more than a dozen issues you’re interested in, the most insignificant of which still is more important than basketball.

Know of someone who deserves a SWAT? Click here to make a nomination.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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