Seattle columnist explains the arena game

Because our elected officials have sucked up to the NBA and done everything the billionaires’ club has asked by way of funding a new arena, shouldn’t Sacramento get to keep the Kings? Isn’t that what integrity is all about?

On the other hand, the Maloofs might argue, why shouldn’t the majority owners of the team get to say how much profit they want to realize on their investment, where they want the team to go and whom they sell to? That’s what good, old, American capitalism is all about.

These competing arguments are at the heart of the tug-of-war between Sacramento and Seattle and are cogently presented by Seattle Times columnist Jerry Brewer. He cuts through a lot of side issues and lays out the stakes for the big-money boys. 

What Brewer doesn’t discuss – and what the Sacramento Bee and other local media have downplayed – is the way local residents are used and abused in the NBA arena game. They put up the public money and financial worry in return. Even loyal Kings fans will get the shaft if Mayor Kevin Johnson’s dream team prevails. It’s willing to forsake $15 million a year from the league to help the Kings buy better players despite the team’s six straight losing seasons.

Here’s a taste of Brewer’s insights:

The real battle is about entitlement. It’s about two parties arm-wrestling to have their rights to the Sacramento Kings defined. It’s the Maloofs vs. Sacramento. And in a general sense, it’s about an NBA owner’s rights vs. the rights of the city that the team represents….

On the surface, it seems a silly thing to ponder. Owners own their teams, and they do as they darn well please, no matter how stupid. But those partnerships with their cities, which so many oppose, complicate matters.

The business of the NBA, as well as any other major sports league, revolves around making cities chip in for sports palaces. It’s your team only if you pay for it to be your team. If you don’t, there’s always the threat of moving to another city.

It’s the build-or-bolt method. And it works. An overwhelming majority of cities consider it stepping up, when they are often being conned. These sports leagues hold your civic pride hostage, and many arena/stadium deals are emotional decisions, not practical ones.

Here’s why this is so relevant to this custody battle over the Kings: If it’s an accepted truth that cities get rewarded for “stepping up,” what happens when that’s still not good enough for an owner? What happens when an owner believes a franchise is still better off elsewhere? What happens when an owner is adamant about exercising his right to do what he wishes with his private business?

Read Brewer’s whole column and you’ll know why little people are the pawns in this rip-off game.





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One Response to Seattle columnist explains the arena game

  1. Jason says:

    It’s becoming clear that Sacramento will keep the Kings. What happens after that ought to be entertaining.

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