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Why Chris Hansen keeps fighting for a Seattle NBA team

The NBA thrives on holding leverage over city governments. But it may not hold all the power.

Responding to a question about whether Wednesday’s vote by owners wiped out Seattle’s future ability to create momentum for pursuing another team, NBA Commissioner David Stern said something intriguing.

“Seattle,” he said, “will always act in its best interests.”

Spoken like the insincere, unctuous monopolist that he is. Stern used a high-minded phrase to disguise his true meaning, which was that the entire moss-caked culture will, from his view, always screw it up.

But it's not the full Charlie Brown, because Seattle gets in its kicks. Stern and NBA just keep moving the goalposts.

By a 22-8 vote of owners Wednesday who met for four hours in a Dallas hotel, Seattle was handed its hat a second time in five years by the NBA despite, in Stern's words, "Chris Hansen doing everything he could have done." So what, then, was the point of the exercise?

To push Sacramento to do what Seattle did not do in 2008 — gather wealthy local ownership to buy a franchise that can force construction of a new NBA arena with a large amount of public funds the municipality can little afford. And as side benefit, inflate the equity appreciation of the other 29 franchises.

Well done, Mr. Hansen. And the reward for being used? A commitment to an expansion team, right?

No.

“Just our promise of fair dealing," said Stern, "and ultimate consideration on our part.”

Whoo. Hoo. That and $3 won't even get service at Howard Schultz's little coffee shop.

The fact that none of this can be a surprise does not lessen the emotional impact for fans of Seattle pro hoops, not to mention for Hansen and his buddy, Steve Ballmer, who have invested a little more than emotion. Which helps explain why Hansen, responding with cool defiance on his website sonicsarena.com after the vote, wrote that he "looks forward to hearing back on our agreement to join the Maloofs as limited partners in the Kings."

That refers to his "backup" deal announced Saturday, in anticipation of being denied relocation, to buy 20 percent of the franchise from the owners, the Maloof family, for $115 million, as they continue to operate the team in Sactown.

Stern, on the other hand, believes the Maloof family will come to their few senses and sell their 65 percent share of the team to the Sacramento group led by Vivek Ranadive for $341 million, instead of the $406 million offered by Hansen. Apparently, the Maloofs are as dim as everyone keeps saying.

"It is my expectation that we'll be able to make a deal with the Maloofs and the Ranadive group to transfer title of the team in Sacramento," Stern said. "It's not a certainty, but we're going to work (toward) that result."

The positions of Hansen and Stern are in direct conflict. And as the cartel leader, Stern seems fated to win, because the NBA claims the right to veto minority owners as well as majority owners.

I wrote Monday that Hansen’s “backup” bid was a misstep because even if it worked, the outcome potentially was too much like the wretched, but NBA-approved ownership of the Sonics by Clay Bennett, who spent two years tearing down the team and pulling it away from the community in preparation for the 2008 relocation to Oklahoma City.

But seeing that Hansen didn't get so much as a potted plant for his efforts, and presuming  the Maloofs are smart enough to figure out that $406 million is more than $341 million, what could it hurt? Are the Maloofs going to have another gold star ripped from their NBA epaulets? Will Hansen be fined by a league to which he does not belong?

Yes, even to a Seattle resident, the idea of keeping the Maloofs around another year is unpleasant. And the idea of Hansen partnering with them to help move forward the infant arena plan is as insufferable in Sacramento as Bennett was here in 2007, stomping around the weeds of the Muckleshoot wetlands claiming to be looking for an arena site. But really, that isn't the point.


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Comments:

Posted Thu, May 16, 10:40 a.m. Inappropriate

Isn't the proper term "Malooves?"

NotFan

Posted Sun, May 19, 5:48 p.m. Inappropriate

Hansen and Ballmer demand public funds from Seattle. The vast majority of Seattle Citizens do not wish to subsidize Hansen and Ballmer.

Hansen and Ballmer were never elected to any position in Seattle. Do not conflate Hansen and Ballmer with Seattle. Neither of them even live in, or pay taxes, to Seattle. Hansen and Ballmer are not even Seattle Citizens. Hansen and Ballmer are not Seattle.

I have no wish for any NBA team in Seattle, unless the NBA team owners pay for any new arena, and receive no subsidy (incuding tax exemption) from Seattle.

Seattle only has 4.1% of its Citizenry with interest in the NBA, "Which Sports Have the MOst Fans in Seattle" by Gene Balk on 28 Jan 2013 at The Seattle Times; and "With Worse Fan Support Than Spokane, Can Seattle Get Its NBA Mojo Back?" by Gene Balk on 15 Jan 2013 at The Seattle Times.

Seattle only has 4.1% of the Citizenry with interest in the NBA, and that is 62% below the national average. Seattle Citizens rank the NBA 10th out of 12 sports, behind soccer, gymnastics, and figure skating.

Seattle had little interest in the NBA, when a team was here, "Poll: Loss of Sonics Won't Bother Most People in Seattle" by Johnathan Martin on 04 Jul 2008 at The Seattle Times. The scientific Elway poll found that 78% of Seattle Citizens did not care about the Sonics leaving.

Seattle Citizens passed I-91, which prohibited subsidy to professional sports, with 74% of the vote.

Hansen and Ballmer are not Seattle. Hansen and Ballmer attempted to get an NBA team for Hansen and Ballmer, not Seattle. The majority of Puget Sound area Citizens do not want to subsidize Hansen and Ballmer,"Voters Like Seattle Arena Idea, But Not Paying For It" by Lynn Thompson on 22 May 2012 at The Seattle Times. The scientific Elway poll found that 2 out 3 Seattle-Tacoma Metropolitan Area Citizens do not want Hansen and Ballmer subsidized. That is a supermajority of area Citizens against subsidy to Hansen and Ballmer. If the poll had been restricted to Seattle Citizens the supermajority would be higher.

So, do not attempt to state that Seattle wants an NBA team. The supermajority of Seattle Citizens do not want an NBA team, unless the NBA team owners use Key Arena, or the owners pay for their own new arena with no subsidies. No subsidies means no subsidies.

Also, of note as regards the Kings sale; "San Antonio, Memphis, Salt Lake City Top NBA Markets for Avid Fans" on 21 Dec 2011 at The Sports Business Daily found that, even though the Sacramento Metropolitan Area has a smaller population than the Seattle-Tacoma MA, there are a much larger number of NBA fans in the Sacramento MA than the Seattle MA. The article shows that Sacramento has a higher percentage of high interest fans than Seattle. The Sacramento percentage is higher than the percentage interest in Seattle even in a Seattle playoff year; this after Sacramento has been a poor team for years. The Sacramento percentage is 13% compared to the 8.9% high for Seattle in the 2004-2005 Seattle Sonics playoff run. The percentages applied to the MA populations shows that there are numerically more NBA fans in the Sacramento area by far.

jhande

Posted Wed, May 22, 11:28 a.m. Inappropriate

Jhande, I believe a Seattle poll on any public spending on a discretionary project would be voted down handily. There would be no majority support for McCaw, Benaroya, the Pacific Place garage or other private-public project. In fact, I doubt there would be majority support for police and fire.

Hansen knew that, and constructed an offer that makes the public part a lease purchase -- a loan, retired from revenues that would not otherwise exist without the arena. Plus some tax forgiveness.

You still don't have to like it or support it, but recognize it for working more toward the Seattle majority sensibility than any previous endeavor of its kind.

Art Thiel

Posted Wed, May 22, 3:28 p.m. Inappropriate

Art, The Seawall was overwhelmingly passed. Seattle Citizens have no problem approving spending on projects. The problem with the arena is that there is a tiny percentage of NBA fans in Seattle. There is not support for funding this arena proposal, other than among the current 4.1% of the population that are NBA fans. That the Citizenry would not vote for the Hansen arena proposal, and that the Citizenry does not wish to publicly finance the Hansen arena proposal, should be honored by the Citizens elected representatives. The Seattle majority wants Hansen and Ballmer to have their team play at Key Arena, or for Hansen and Ballmer to pay for their own arena.

I find it insulting that some wealthy hedge fund manager, and Ballmer who reportedly has 16 billion dollars, demand Seattle public funds, tax exemption, and other subsidy. I find it disgusting that Hansen and Ballmer can hire some lobbyists, and Seattle politicians fall over themselves to hand public funds to Hansen and Ballmer.

The Seattle arena proposal is for a publicly funded arena. It simply uses Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) to time release the public funds. That fools very few people. Anyway, there are privately financed arenas, and stadiums, owned or used by professional sports teams. A privately financed arena would manifest the Seattle majority sensibility; either that, or playing at Key Arena. At a certain point the wealthy need to start paying their own way. We cannot have lines at the unemployment office, soup kitchens, and food banks and continue to pay public funds to the wealthy. It is improper.

jhande

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