NBA prepares for Salary Cap boon, as TV partners prepare for lower ratings

The National Basketball Association’s biggest championship will not be in June, but July.

Although basketball culture is currently enthralled with the Golden State Warriors and their quest for 73 wins, fans, media insiders, coaches, front office officials, and owners are all keeping a close eye on the large salary cap expansion that will follow shortly after the NBA Finals ends in late June, and no matter who plays in it, every NBA team will win this title. That’s because the NBA’s new TV deals signed in 2014 with TNT and ESPN/ABC—the channels that host primetime games, playoffs, and in ESPN/ABC’s case, the NBA Finals—will dramatically improve the salary cap depth. Currently, the NBA salary cap is at $67.1 million, with a luxury tax threshold of $81.6 million, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.

By the beginning of the 2016-17 NBA season, which officially starts July 1 of this year, the cap will be at a total of $89 million, with a luxury tax of $108 million. This will spike in July 2017 to $108 million for the cap, and $127 for the luxury tax. In two years, the cap will nearly double, and the luxury tax will grow by 50%. This is significant because many teams can go spending if they aren’t up to standards talent wise. For instance, the Los Angeles Lakers in this offseason alone will be able to spend up to as much as $62 million dollars, while the Philadelphia 76ers can spend up to about $61 million. Both of these teams are in the basement of their respective conferences, the Western, and the Eastern.

In fact, the top 5 teams by maximum cap space: the Lakers, 76ers, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, and Washington Wizards, are all major media markets, finishing in the top 10 according to Nielsen’s 2016 estimates. Namely, Los Angeles (2nd), Philadelphia (4th), and Boston (8th) are media markets which possess teams that are cornerstones of NBA history. However, all three of these teams have been maligned as of late: none of them have won a playoff game since 2013.

This might explain why the NBA’s ratings are down recently: with multiple traditional markets suffering, including both New York teams, the NBA’s ratings are down locally and nationally since the 2014 TNT and ESPN/ABC TV contracts were signed. On TNT, the national audience’s ratings are down 8.2%, while ESPN/ABC is down 5.6% from 2014-15. Artie Bulgrin, ESPN’s senior vice president for global research, attributed the decline to the fact that the best teams are not in the top media markets right now. “It’s Golden State,” Bulgrin said. “It’s not New York, Chicago, or [the Lakers].”

But what if the issue comes from another source altogether? According to the Wall Street Journal, ESPN’s subscriber base has lost seven million in the last two years, and TNT has lost four million. The league might reap benefits from the TV deal at first, but with the rate cable subscriptions are dropping, and the decline of major market teams across the league, this could lead to a situation where owners spend less than expected, and create another labor stoppage like the one in late 2011. The NBA has had trouble regaining the 1990s ratings since the 1999 lockout and retirement of Michael Jordan, and it seems as if things might not improve in the coming years after this money jump.




Trump increases ratings, naturalization in United States

Donald Trump has been called many things over the course of the past 10 months since his declaration to run for President of the United States, but one that would be hard to use on him would be boring.

According to “The Wrap,” Fox News Channel, the most popular cable network in the United States, set a basic cable record for most consecutive weeks in first place among total-day viewership. Fox News employs Megyn Kelly, who has been caught up in a war of words with Trump ever since the network hosted the first GOP debate in early August 2015. That debate was the most viewed in Fox News’ 20-year history, and it featured multiple instances of Trump and Kelly having heated discussion. This drama, along with coverage of Trump attacking his contemporaries running for the Republican nomination, has led to a spike in ratings for Fox News. Nearly 17 million Americans watched the March 3 GOP debate.

Mr. Trump has also adversely affected the network with his presence: when he and fellow nominee and Governor of Ohio John Kasich pulled out of the March 21 GOP debate, the network cancelled it due to fears of ratings being much lower.

His campaign, and his attitude publicly, has led to another thing: according to a report from the New York Times, naturalization applications increased by 11 percent in 2015, and the primary goal is to make sure Trump isn’t winning the Oval Office anytime soon.

Hortensia Villegas is a legal immigrant from Mexico who shares this sentiment. “I want to vote so Donald Trump won’t win,” Villegas said. “He doesn’t like us.”

Trump has particularly drawn the ire from Hispanic Americans for comments regarding foreign policy. A Washington Post poll found 80% of Hispanics unfavorably view Trump, with 51% claiming they will support the Democratic Party nominee in November’s general election.

Minerva Guerrero Salazar, 40, emigrated in 2002 from Mexico, and plans to vote against Trump. “He has no conscience when he speaks of Latinos, and he is so rude,” said Salazar. “I don’t know what kind of education his mother gave him.”

The LA Times reported in 2014 that 27% of eligible Latinos voted in the midterm election that year, which saw the Republicans take a majority of Senate seats and increase their House of Representatives count. That year, 41% of African Americans and 46% of Non-Hispanic whites participated in voting. If the reports are correct, the Latino influence will be stronger in not only the ratings, but the election as well.


A case for California to legalize weed recreationally

In 1996, California became the first state in the Union to legalize medical marijuana. In 2016, there are nine ballot initiatives, none of which currently are about legalizing it recreationally. Being the largest state in America, it has the chance to influence the marijuana movement more than any other state, and Governor Jerry Brown should encourage the people of California to do so.

While some, such as Jeffrey Miron, Stephen Duke, James Ostroski, and Ethan Nadelmann, have pushed for more than simply marijuana to be legalized (some sentiments of which includes the legalization of all drugs) marijuana clearly has the most momentum to be legalized recreationally across all 50 states. The biggest reason? We have a few examples of state success already in the nation to emulate in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon.

The idea has been met with opposition: Paul Chabot, president of Coalition for a Drug Free California and Republican hopeful for California’s 31st District, blasted Colorado as an example for pot legalization: “California can examine Colorado’s failed pot legalization experiment as reason enough to say just no in 2016,” said Chabot.

Yet according to a MintPress News report on Colorado’s economy since the 2012 ballot was approved, $60 million dollars in tax revenue from marijuana alone was received by the state, property crime has decreased by 8.9%, and burglary rates dropped by 9.5%. What might be most inspiring, however, is that Colorado has both one of the fastest growing economies in the U.S. and the unemployment rate, citing a Denver Post report, is far below the current national rate at 3.0%, in comparison to the national rate of 5.0%. This is nearly a third of Colorado’s rate in December 2011, which was 8.1%.

If a middle-of-the-pack populated state such as Colorado can have this type of success, imagine the most populated state in the U.S. allowing for regulated, recreational use. Currently, California sits a tick above the national rate, with 5.5% unemployment. Former Facebook president and Napster co-founder Sean Parker is leading the movement to get a ballot vote in November on making marijuana recreationally legal. As a billionaire, Parker can fund millions to get the support necessary for the right to smoke pot in public in the Golden State, and plans to: in January 2016, he pledged $500,000 to help efforts for his initiative, which expects to be the most funded of all possible initiatives. This was followed by another $500,000 to the Adult Use of Marijuana Act in February 2016, and AUMA now has $2.25 million in its pocket, which is higher than the total from 2010’s failed Proposition 19. San Francisco Weekly claimed the Act is now nicknamed the “Parker Initiative” due to his contributions.

Parker’s donations went to a committee known as Californians to Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana While Protecting Children, Sponsored by Business, Physicians, Environmental and Social Justice Advocate Organizations. The long-named committee calls for a measure that California regulators predict could pull in up to $1 billion in new revenues for the state. The measure’s plan imposes a 15% state excise tax on marijuana’s retail sales, with state cultivation taxes of $9.25 per flowers ounce. Medical marijuana would be exempt from some taxes. The drug would be legalized for adults only, likely beginning at 21, similar to Colorado’s legal age to consume, smoke, and own cannabis.




Sanders rallies his GMU masses

FAIRFAX, VA. – United States Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) held an impassioned rally on Wednesday at George Mason University’s Fairfax campus, where he urged action on income disparity, the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, jail overcrowding, racial conflict, and health care among other issues. Sanders was frequently interrupted by the cheering crowd which filled up the university’s Recreational Activities Center. He also invited several young people onstage to give support before beginning his remarks.

Sanders, 74, began his speech with his signature criticism of the United States since he launched his presidential campaign. He talked about the billionaire class becoming too strong, and likened the country to an oligarchy in the way finances were being handled. Sanders repeated his anti-Trans Pacific Partnership and anti-super-PAC spending stances to the delight of the thousands who showed up at Mason.

Sanders also criticized America’s jail overcrowding. “This is the country with more prisoners than any other nation on Earth,” Sanders said. He also spoke in favor of legalizing marijuana across the country by asking support for passing a measure to remove the drug from the Schedule I list, which would allow states to decide on legalization individually.

Sanders tackled health care, where he praised Obamacare, but also said there was still room for improvement. “Here, 29 million Americans are still uninsured, and we have the highest prices for prescriptions in the world,” Sanders said. The senator also said that he favors a single-payer method using Medicare, and called for the country to rectify its stance on paid medical leave. “This is the only major nation in the world which doesn’t guarantee paid medical leave,” Sanders said.

Sanders reminded the crowd of his anti-aggression policies, and his well known vote against the deployment of troops in Iraq in spring 2003. “War should not be a first resort, but a last resort,” said Sanders. He further remarked that in 2002, as a U.S. House of Representative (I-VT) he gave a speech that warned of the dangers of military force in Iraq, though he said did not take pride in being right.

As he concluded, Sanders engaged in a rhetorical crowd interaction, asking them if they were okay with police brutality, income disparity, rising college education prices and jails being filled from drug possession. All of these points were responded to with a loud, resounding “No” from the mostly college-aged students. Following a town hall debate with the participants in the crowd, Sanders departed to a roaring, cheering group of spectators.