By Danny O’Neil
It’s not about you, Seattle.
Everyone needs to be reminded of this after Monday’s gut-punch of an announcement that the NBA will not be returning to the city this year. Not after the NBA’s relocation committee voted unanimously against allowing the Kings franchise to move to Seattle.
And you know what? The relocation committee is right. That franchise shouldn’t move to Seattle.
The Kings are staying in Sacramento after the NBA’s relocation committee voted against the team moving to Seattle. (AP)
That has nothing to do with Seattle’s investment group, its arena plan nor its fans. This is about Sacramento, its mayor Kevin Johnson and the fact he used everything but a sledgehammer to ram through an arena plan at great public cost and then wrangle together enough millionaires to put together a comparable bid for the team.
This was never a heads-up comparison between two cities to determine which was the better spot for a team specifically and the league in general. This was about whether Sacramento would offer the necessary ante to keep the team, and Hansen’s purchase was the edge of the knife being held to that city’s throat to see if it would fund a new arena and find a new owner who wanted to keep the team in town.
The city of Sacramento met the ransom so the city of Sacramento gets to keep the team. That’s how franchise politics works in the NBA, and anyone who thinks it should be different in this case is operating out of the misguided notion that Seattle is owed some sort of special poaching license because it lost the Sonics in 2008.
Seattle doesn’t deserve another city’s franchise just because of the way its former franchise was wrangled into Oklahoma, and Seattle doesn’t deserve another city’s franchise because its prospective ownership group has more money or because of the size of its TV market.
It’s not about you, Seattle.
The league’s relocation committee didn’t screw Seattle by recommending against the move; it declined to screw Sacramento, and there is an important difference.
Seattle and its fans have every right to feel used in this process. They were the leverage used to spur Sacramento’s urgency to put a deal together. It’s OK for Seattle to be resentful, even, that commissioner David Stern was an advocate for Sacramento in a way that he never was for Seattle after Clay Bennett purchased the team from Howard Schultz.
But Seattle was not wronged in this situation. It wasn’t victimized, and as admirable and steadfast as Chris Hansen has been in navigating both the political and economic obstacles – first in developing an arena plan and then negotiating a deal to buy the Kings from the Maloofs – it will be very interesting to see what he does next.
On Monday night, he published a statement on SonicsArena.com in which he stated that not only did the group still have an agreement to purchase the franchise from the Maloofs, but that the group intended to see that transaction through. In fact, he used the word transaction three times to emphasize that he saw this as a business deal that was still in place.
Good for him. He shouldn’t give up the only leverage that Seattle has left in the situation, the only card he can play to get the NBA to provide a path to a franchise that will come to Seattle. But there’s also the distinct possibility given the fight to buy the team and move it to Seattle isn’t over. In fact, Hansen said as much in his statement:
“We plan to unequivocally state our case for both relocation and our plan to move forward with the transaction to the league and owners at the upcoming Board of Governor’s Meeting in Mid-May.”
–Chris Hansen, April 29, SonicsArena.com
Over the past three years, Hansen has shown just how capable and effective he would be as the owner of an NBA team in Seattle. The past two months, however, have shown pretty clearly that it shouldn’t be the Kings franchise that he gets to own in Seattle.