The owners of professional basketball teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the American Basketball Association (ABA) wanted to merge the 2 leagues because a war between them over players had led to escalating salaries. The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) responded with a lawsuit to block the merger citing antitrust regulations. When the owners went to Congress to ask for a special antitrust exemption, they were denied. This case study discusses the impact of communication on legislative lobbying, specifically how the NBPA used direct and indirect lobbying techniques to block the first NBA–ABA merger attempt. This case study offers a means to understand how and why some entities succeed in their public debates, while others fail. For the scholar, this case study adds to the limited literature on legislative lobbying from a communication perspective. For the practitioner, this study provides some guidelines for the effective use of lobbying.
The author is with the School of Communications, Elon University, Elon, NC.