Last Wednesday, I published an article in Slate on why the NBA lockout isn’t likely to harm local economies, providing evidence from multiple economic studies of previous work stoppages. The explanation is the same as for why new sports stadiums don’t help local economies much: Most sports spending is just reshuffled from elsewhere in your local region, so what’s good (or bad) for sports is bad (or good) for movie theaters, restaurants, bowling alleys, etc.
Twenty-four hours later, the Associated Press ran this:
Harry Buffalo is one of the downtown restaurants in Cleveland that counts heavily on the beer-drinking, burger-devouring NBA crowd to keep its doors open. Operations manager John Adams has taped an internet report outside the kitchen for his waitresses, bartenders and cooks to read.
With yellow highlighter, he’s shaded the grim news of the NBA labor impasse for his employees, some of whom may soon lose their jobs if there’s no deal.
This is where the lockout hits home, and hits hardest.
“It’s rough,” Adams said, glancing toward The Q. “I’ve got three single moms on my wait staff and two single dads in the kitchen. I’ve got their 11 children to think about. It’s painful when it’s out of my control, when I have to put the business first and say I can’t have 15 servers on staff because we don’t have the business.”
Now, all of this is true — but in both economic and journalistic terms, utterly beside the point. If a restaurant across from the Cavs arena is facing layoffs if the NBA season is cancelled, there’s almost certain to be a restaurant across town that will end up hiring as a result — people in Cleveland have still gotta eat. (Some people, anyway.) But that doesn’t fit the desired narrative as well, so instead we get stories of how “ushers, security personnel, parking lot attendants, concession workers, restaurant employees and others all stand to have their hours cut or join the country’s 14 million unemployed.” Number of actual economists consulted by the six AP writers who contributed to this 1200-word article: zero.
On Friday, incidentally, I wrote another article for the Village Voice on how claims (this time by the New York Daily News) of a lost economic windfall from the Yankees not making the next playoff round were hogwash, for the same reasons as the mythical lockout disaster. So far as I can tell, the AP hasn’t written an article yet directly contradicting this one with no evidence, but maybe they were all off for the holiday weekend.