The Sonics Have Left The Building… Or Want To

18 02 2008

With the dunk of Superman Dwight Howard as a diversion (and I had to wonder what the league’s previously self-appointed Superman, Shaquille O’Neal thought of that one), David Stern quietly announced that the Sonics leaving Seattle is just as inevitable as Howard’s jam.

Sonics - soon no more Seattle?In his annual address at the All Star weekend, Stern announced that he saw the departure of the Seattle Sonics as inevitable, and that he supported Sonics owner Clay Bennett’s desire to move them to Oklahoma City, Bennett’s hometown.  This move will occur despite efforts from Bennett, Stern, and local Sonics supporters to keep it in Seattle.  However, without public funding for a new playing venue, it would be impossible to do so… and this is something that the city council refuses to do.

Stern stated, “I accept that inevitability at this point… There is no miracle here.”

This address by Commissioner Stern drew the ire of Seattle’s Deputy Mayor, Tim Ceis.

“If Mr. Stern had any kind of integrity, he wouldn’t be trying to hijack this team out of Seattle,” Ceis said. “David Stern hasn’t lifted one finger since Clay Bennett bought this team to do anything to try and keep it in Seattle. It’s been an ongoing conspiracy between the league and Clay Bennett to hijack this franchise out of Seattle.”  (The Seattle Times, Feb. 17 ’08)

Stern feels that it’s pointless that the team stay any longer, and that he’d urged Sonics ownership to pay off remaining debts, buy off the lease, and leave the city at the culmination of this season.  According to The Seattle Times, this offer was $26.5 million, and was rejected by the City of Seattle.  The city currently holds an injunction against the team leaving before the end of the current lease at KeyArena, which will end in 2010, and has a lawsuit against the team. 

The Sonics sent the offer to City Attorney Tom Carr, offering to settle the city’s suit against the franchise. 
Carr responded to the offer and Commissioner Stern’s involvment,

“I sent them a letter saying it was low and they miscalculated the debt amount, if that was their goal, and that we couldn’t accept it at this point,” Carr said. “The city’s intent is to hold them to the lease.
“I don’t know what Mr. Stern is trying to do. I will say it’s a sad fact that he’s treating a 40-year NBA city like this. I suspect what they are trying to do is put pressure on the decision makers. But when an NBA team signs a lease to play for 15 years, they should play for 15 years and not play games like this.” (
The Seattle Times, Feb. 17 ’08)

The soon-to-be formerly Seattle SonicsIt’s a pity that it’s come to this.  Seattle’s oldest pro-sports franchise is leaving, it’s only a matter of when.  Clearly, the City has within it’s power the ability to keep the Sonics in Seattle, but it’s apparently not something that’s high on the Seattle City Council’s agenda. 
In this day and age with many cities eager to procure a professional sports team, it’s an amazing stance for Seattle to take.  But not overly new to them: previous owner Howard Schultz – a Seattle resident – tried over, and over again to procure city funds to build a new arena, but no assistance was forthcoming. 
Not many cities are lucky enough to have franchises in all 3 of the major sports.  Seattle is one that does, with the Seahawks in the NFL, and the Mariners in MLB.  Looks like they’ll be soon struck off that list.  A pity too, with the current roster looking like they could – in future years – have a pretty special group, lead by rookie sensation Kevin Durant.

Oh well…
To paraphrase David Stern, the Sonics have left the building.  Or rather, they want to.  Only a city’s irascible council keeps them there.

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6 responses

19 02 2008
Aaron Becker

Seattle shot themselves in the foot with this one. I don’t think they comprehended thew fact that they won’t get another team if they lost the Sonics.

19 02 2008

People where I live in Minnesota better get used to the Vikings playing in Los Angeles in a few years. There is no political will to build a new stadium with Taxpayer dollars. On level it is understandable, cities are sucking air finincially for services like healthcare and schools-Many of these owners have the dollars to build a stadium themselves and StILL be filthy rich. But they are not going to invest in new stadiums. The Vikings are not profitable, and people like MR Wilf are not used to operating in the red. The NFL for many years has a huge city and Market in L.A without an NFL team. After the Supersonics, I bet that the Vikings will be the next major sports team to move.

20 02 2008
Aaron Becker

Oh God I hope you’re so wrong about the Vikes making the LA move. I don’t wanna wonder how long my depression would last if it did happen.

20 02 2008

If any of the readers here’d know, it’d be Steve… sorry Aaron.

20 02 2008

Don and Aaron, I hope I am wrong, but the way this thing is shaping up here in Minnesota, there is ZERO political will-particularly after what happend when Hennepin County caved into the Pohlad’s family’s threats about moving or wacking the Twins to get a new Twins Stadium(just started construction a few weeks ago) shoved down the taxpayer’s gullett. Minnesotans need to heed the lesson of what happend to the Cleveland Browns. They got moved to Baltimore, and this was a city that turned out to the tune of 80,000 people per game to see some really lousy football the last few years the Modell family had the Brownies in Cleveland. If it could happen to the tradition-rich Browns, it can happen here in Minnesota. I can understand not wanting to subisidize a new stadium-but then Minnesotans cannot whine and bitch when the Vikings(like the Lakers did in the early 60’s) move from the land of 10,000 lakes out to La-La- Land.

21 02 2008
Aaron Becker

>>If any of the readers here’d know, it’d be Steve… sorry Aaron.<<

I know, I’m not disagreeing. I did bring it up with a cousin who lives in the Twin Cities a couple years back. He could care less as he’s not a local, but he wasn’t positive about it. I’ll just have to hang out at my local Vike message board a bit more. But it doesn’t seem to be an issue that’s talked about much these days.

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