Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie is using the free time of quarantine to brainstorm ideas, and his latest is a doozy.
Having had an idea rejected by the NBA last fall, when he sought to convert his contract to cryptocurrency, which would have given investors a chance to capitalize on his future earnings, Dinwiddie now wants to raise $24,632,630 in Bitcoin, via GoFundMe, and allow contributing fans to choose where he plays on his next free agent deal.
Dinwiddie explained his thinking behind the concept in a Twitter thread on Saturday morning. He calls it “an endorsement deal”, and compared it to the celebrity messaging service Cameo and the subscription streaming site OnlyFans.
“Overall a potential FA is influenced by many things,” Dinwiddie wrote. “Family, winning, state taxes, shoe companies, agency, market size, etc. I simply want to choose my influences and democratize this access in the process. So I set my favorite numbers in btc as the price. (26, 25 and 8)”
Terming it an “experiment,” Dinwiddie acknowledged that it’s incredibly unlikely the fundraising goal will be met, and said that in the event it is not, all proceeds will go to charity.
It’s an unlikely plan, not only because $24 million is a ton of money to try to raise in a time of economic upheaval, but also because the NBA would be all but certain to view it as circumventing the salary cap. That’s before you get to the issue of the team chosen by Dinwiddie’s investor-fans needing to actually sign him.
The other reason that the NBA would want to put the kibosh on this idea is that Dinwiddie is edging toward an idea that would take power away from owners and put it in the hands of players and fans. What Dinwiddie is proposing is that he be paid by someone other than an NBA team owner, which gets to the question of why owners are necessary at all.
One of the few issues that can unite people on the left and right sides of the political spectrum is that spending taxpayer money to build arenas that then serve to funnel profits to billionaire team owners is awful policy. While the conservative group Americans for Prosperity points out that Chicago’s United Center was ”funded through a private joint venture” of the two teams who play there, and “the free market is more than capable of delivering sports to their fans,” what if, instead, the public kept funding arenas, but the teams themselves were municipally owned in a setup similar to the Green Bay Packers?
The NBA is set up for teams to make money hand over fist. Players’ salaries are pegged to a percentage of league revenue, with the rest going to owners. But what if the owners were the fans in a given city?
The people of Oklahoma City paid for the construction of the Thunder’s arena. The people of Oklahoma City fund the Thunder themselves through tickets, parking, and even their cable TV bills. The team is owned by billionaire Clay Bennett, who gets to keep the Thunder’s profits for himself.
Imagine, instead, that the people of Oklahoma City owned the Thunder. If the team were operated as a public trust rather than a private enterprise, the full profits could be used to fund Oklahoma City schools, or improve the area’s mass transit, or boost the health department. The team’s business operations could still go on pretty much as they do now, although it would be good to make more tickets affordable to ordinary people, but the money made by the team would go directly to Oklahomans instead of to the chairman of Dorchester Capital Corporation.
In that case, a plan like Dinwiddie’s would make a lot more sense, and would be a public service. There would need to be a system put into place for players’ contracts to represent a chunk of the salary cap, but any money that players could get from crowdfunding then would be deducted from what the team owed — and that money would belong to the people, as the teams would be owned by the people.
Of course, the NBA is run by those billionaires who own the teams, and they’re not going to give up their extremely profitable enterprises for the good of the cities where those businesses, the teams, are located. Dinwiddie is on to something, but it will never come to fruition as long as professional sports in America are set up the way that they are now.