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For NBA, how about a 'smart strike'?

By Michael Schulder, CNN
updated 3:06 PM EST, Thu November 17, 2011
Derek Fisher, president of the NBA Players Association speaks at a press conference on November 14 in New York.
Derek Fisher, president of the NBA Players Association speaks at a press conference on November 14 in New York.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Michael Schulder: Thousands of Americans may suffer due to NBA labor dispute
  • Negotiation expert William Ury suggests a "smart strike"
  • Games would go on, revenues would go partly to charity, the rest to escrow fund
  • Schulder says the idea would avoid cancellation of the season and loss of economic activity

Editor's note: Michael Schulder is a senior executive producer at CNN.

(CNN) -- Forget the players. Forget the owners. Forget the fans. At least for the moment.

Forget everyone, except the thousands of Americans who depend on the NBA to make a living.

If the current collapse of negotiations between the National Basketball Association's players and owners kills this NBA season, many Americans will suffer. If anyone can figure a way out of this mess, it's the author of "Getting to Yes," the classic handbook on how to pursue win-win negotiations.

His name is William Ury. He co-founded the Harvard Project on Negotiation. I called him to see if he had a fresh approach to the NBA collapse.

He does. He calls it a "smart strike."

Here's Ury's vision of how a smart strike would work.

"The games would go on," whether the players and owners resume negotiations or not. "The players would not get paid anything until the labor dispute was resolved. The owners would not get paid either," says Ury. "ALL revenues would go into an escrow fund."

This is sounding interesting. Better in the long run for the players AND the owners to have the revenue waiting for them. What if they're resistant?

"We'd have an extra incentive. Some percentage of the revenues, say 5%, would be given away to charity. Perhaps basketball scholarships."

So while the players and owners would ultimately each have a smaller pie to negotiate over, at least a portion of it would be going to a good cause. And they'd preserve the vast majority of the money for when they finally do reach a settlement.

You'd still have "the mutual pain of the lockout without hurting the innocents -- the workers who depend on the NBA."

"It's almost shameful," adds Ury, "at a time when the country and so many millions of Americans are hurting, to have a struggle over whether a certain amount of millions goes here or there."

"By having a smart strike the owners and players can fight their battle and give something back to the country, the fans, the game."

A smart strike seems like it could ultimately be a win-win for the players and the owners.

It certainly seems like a simple, compassionate, alternative to the total collapse of the NBA season.

You don't have to care about basketball to root for a smart strike.

Because if things continue along the path they're on, there will be no game.

Just a shame.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Schulder.

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