Note: The following article has been posted a day after it was finished in protest of CISPA. Thanks to the guys from Sonicsgate for reminding me of yesterday's boycott.
I don’t hate Chris Hansen. There, I said it. The one thing that Kings fans are absolutely, positively not suppose to say. He’s a business man, with business motives and is— well, right in what he’s doing. If Hansen were a part of my ownership group, I’d welcome him with open arms like a Vlade Divac flop. So I can’t blame you for defending him every chance you get.
But guess what? I’m not alone Sonics fans. A lot of people down here in Sacramento have no problem with the ownership group that represents your great city. Zero, zilch, nada—save maybe for a slight distain for Steve Ballmer (have you used a Windows 8 device lately—UGH!).
The reality is that a lot of your fans have just made the assumption that we’re upset with the way Hansen and company have tried to move our team, because many of you have transposed your past experiences from 2008 onto us. Somehow you believe there is no difference between the two cities and our similar experiences. But in doing so you fall to the fallacy of reductionism.
It is true that both cities have had to suffer through the potential loss of a team, but just as I would agree that Hansen has been up front in his intentions, unlike Clay Bennent, you should similarly understand that both transactions are not the same. I wish to show you this and doing so point out this "binding" transaction as illegitimate in its nature.
This is where many of you will start yelling at your computers, wishing that I were to stop. I implore you to read on.
First, a transaction or contract that is binding can be illegitimate in nature, not because of the fault of both parties, but just one side. Take for example the idea of stolen goods. If I were to sell you something that I had stolen, but you were not aware of said theft, even in your innocence those goods are not your own. Everyday those who possess goods originally obtained by illegal means are stripped of the rights to those goods, even if there was a contract between two parties.
I am not saying that Hansen has stolen our team or that the Kings are even a lifted commodity. What I am pointing out is that in contract law a binding agreement can be unwound if the agency in control of said law states that it isn’t aligned with the values it has place for itself.
Enter the NBA Charter. David Aldridge spells this out in his March 11th, 2013 piece for NBA.com. Top among the questions that the relocation committee must ask during their investigation over whether to grant or deny a move is, "What is the support of the team in the existing location?" Unlike others, I choose to not compare and contrast both cities as it pertains to this question, but instead choose to answer it by pointing out what we in the Sacramento market have had to endure as fans.
Before I delve into this, I wish to point out that many might ask whether or not this is even the best way to consider the validity of the transaction that Hansen, et al. and the Maloofs have entered into. It is. Simply go back to Friday’s press conference with David Stern and you’ll see that he makes mention of how the NBA does not deny the sale of a team to anyone that owners wishes to sell to, but does, however, restrict where an owner would wish to sell to. In other words, markets matter and so does this line of thinking to validate the Sacramento market.
So what is the question that will be (and probably already being) asked during the so-called Supercommittee’s meetings on Wednesday? If the validity of the market is at stake, I would venture to guess it would be this: Have the current owners of the Sacramento Kings, in their due diligence, done everything in their power to show that the NBA cannot work in the Sacramento market?
I have chosen this question because it presents the burden necessary to overcome the question of fan support. It presents enough of a hurdle, that if it were proven so with proper evidence, both committees would have this team heading northbound up I-5. I also believe that many of you would agree, as Sonics fans, it’s the question you wish was asked in 2008.
To look at a question like this, some would look at attendance figures and solidify their opinion right there. For the past few years it has been dismal at Arco Arena. Some would remind Sonics fans that our attendance has been higher year over year, save two seasons. But as I stated before, this is not about comparing Seattle and Sacramento.
In any case fan support is more than just people in the seats. Fan support is about the what those people in the seats have had to endure, what they have had to go through to continue to support their team. In the case of Kings fans and the Maloofs, what the fans have had to endure is something even Atlas would have failed at.
Many point to what is on the court. Seven seasons without reaching the playoffs, draft picks and acquisitions that seem to go nowhere, a carrousel of head coaches, the list goes on. But that’s only part of what we’ve had to deal with in California’s capital city.
What about the black tarps that fell during our first game this season, covering up the sponsors not amused with the antics of the Maloofs? What about the broken chairs without replacements brought up by LA Times journalist? What about an ownership group that would sit fans of our bitterest rival in their seats during Fan Appreciation Night? What about halftime shows that look like they were produced on someone’s outdated Mac through iMovie, as suppose to the fair that the rest of the NBA gets? What about ticket prices, that until three years ago, hadn’t declined from where they had been when Chris Webber graced the court?
Many of these stories of neglect would’ve been absolute gold for David S. Ward, as he sat down to write the screenplay for Major League. And yet we sit here, while life imitates art, questioning the loyalty of this fan base. Truth is we should be questioning the ownership for it’s loyalty to this market.
George Maloof has said before that he’s a developer, so I take him at this word and believe him to be a legitimate business man of high esteem and success. So that begs the question: what’s going on with your concession stands?
I asked this question last October while at Disney on Ice with my girlfriend and her daughter. During the 20-minute intermission I decided to go an get some refreshments and had to wait 25-minutes to finally get served by the in-house cashier. All the while the group brought in by the producers of the ice show who were serving popcorn had a line that at its longest wait only took five minutes to get through, and was probably ten times the pace. It was at that point I had realized all the times as a season ticket holder where I was forced to choose between two separate products sold by the same owners: the game on the court and the concessions behind the counter.
This dilemma was something that no business person in their right mind would ever want to impose upon their guests. And yet, time after time, I realized I was being served by sloths in slow motion, disorganized in a manner which even a government bureaucrat could streamline. Why? They were volunteers and not the professionals you’d expect to maximize profits.
In the infinite business wisdom of the Maloof family, they had decided to put behind the counter amateurs with no accountability. They had given up on a main revenue stream. This was validated during two of the last few games I had seen at the arena, where two of concession stands were closed throughout the entire game, even though the games were near full capacity.
After my experience at Disney on Ice, I had a major player in the local chamber of commerce come into my work. He had been an active part of getting the support of the business community for the arena deal that feel through at the hands of the Maloofs. While assisting him I brought up my grievance, stating that half of the $3-million (less than the contract of Travis Outlaw) the Maloofs would’ve had to pay back to the NBA each year if the arena deal had been successful could have easily been made off of proper management of the concession stands at the arena. His response, "Exactly."
The truth is that while their product has been failing, the Maloofs have been making excuse after excuse. In doing so, they have gone against there own monetary interest, preferring instead the interest of Sacramento, Hansen, and the NBA. But this has been without any sensible capitalist logic.
In the case of Sacramento, they choose to not enter into the before mentioned arena deal of 2012. Why? One main reason was that they believed that the economic impact on the city of Sacramento would be too stressful. Nothing like compassion from a follower of Machiavelli to sooth one’s nerves. Reality is that this was simply an excuse. An interest free loan at the cost of a bench player is like you getting a house for the monthly payment you pay on your car.
Then the Maloofs decide to simply accept the offer of Hansen, without any bid from Sacramento. It was only as the Sacramento group’s offer came to fruition and this fight for the Kings became a toss up, that they tried to open up the door to a bidding war with an arbitrary deadline. If the Maloofs had been smart, they have put for a bidding war like no other and inflated the price to a valuation $100 million more than it is right now. But they have Hansen’s back, even more than there own. Really?
Yes, really. Going into the presentations the Maloofs let it be know that Seattle was where they wanted there team to be, stating that Hansen would be the best steward of the franchise. For a second, even I rose to attention and started to slowly clap as if I were in the emotional ending of some sappy movie. But this is reality. You’re on you way out, you’ve got the money, albeit a bit less than what it could’ve been, but you’ve got it. So why the all the pomp and circumstance?
Pride and hubris. Look at the facts. The Maloofs for nearly a decade have put up a failed business plan, and instead of fixing it and allowing an NBA sanctioned plan to help rectify that failed plan— they have somehow chosen the high road. They would have you believe that through all their capitalist desires, they care. I’m calling shenanigans.
The Maloofs do not want someone to succeed where they have failed. And so, they have tried to poison the well that is the Sacramento market.
It is with this knowledge of what the Maloofs have done to this city, not for the benefit of the NBA, nor Sacramento, not even Seattle— but instead, their own egos that I make the argument that this transaction is invalid.
I can say this because the concern for host cities that is placed forth in the NBA charter creates a public trust, albeit weak, which the NBA commissioner has stated the Association prefers to respect. In this the NBA has created a law for their own franchises to respect current markets, to do their due diligence and live by that trust. And just as stated before, Hansen and the great Sonics fans I respect have done nothing to violate this public trust, and so I hold no grudge towards them.
It is only the Maloofs that have violated said rules and doing so have done enough put a supposedly "binding" contract a great jeopardy.
Just like everything the Maloofs have done in Sacramento within the past decade, they have created a logical argument that is half-assed and falling apart. Just understand Seattle, if this deal comes falling down like a tarp onto the hardwood inside Sleep Train you’ll understand how it feels to be "Maloofed."
Sincerely pulling for Seattle expansion,