ESPN announced Monday that it is delaying the premier date for Down In The Valley, the 30 For 30 documentary detailing Sacramento's fight to save the Sacramento Kings. The premier is being delayed due to a recent renewal of interest in allegations of sexual misconduct by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. The film reportedly featured KJ prominently, and such a delay had been speculated on in the past several weeks.
This is a difficult subject to discuss. Sactown Royalty has been largely silent on this matter until now. This was a deliberate decision that was not made lightly. Essentially, the news boiled down to news about a politician, and didn't directly relate to the Sacramento Kings. The allegations, if true, are disgusting, deplorable, and something that nobody wants associated with the Kings or with Sacramento. For anyone unfamiliar with the allegations, Deadspin has published some damning posts in recent weeks, including the video of her statement to police. Within that context, no matter how much we may want to see the story of Sacramento be told, ESPN made the correct decision here.
The allegations against Johnson stem from his time as a player for the Phoenix Suns. Although new details have emerged along with first hand accounts from an alleged victim, the charges are from KJ's past and have been reported previously. That said, just because something was long ignored doesn't mean it should continue to be ignored. New accounts, new video, these can bring old issues to the forefront. Allegations against Bill Cosby existed for years before reaching their boiling point in the past year. Donald Sterling was known to be a racist slumlord for decades before a recording finally ended his ownership of the Clippers. Time will tell how this plays out for Johnson, but the fact that these aren't new allegations isn't reason enough for ESPN to ignore them and move forward as planned.
It's impossible to tell the story of Sacramento saving the Kings without including Kevin Johnson. I imagine whatever the next cut of the film looks like, KJ will still be involved. He was an enormous figure in the city during that time, and the Kings likely play in Seattle this season if he wasn't the mayor of Sacramento at the time. That said, there are so many other figures who were just as important to the story. Ultimately it's a story of the fans, the fan groups, and a city rallying together to save their team. KJ was a key figure, but he isn't the whole story.
Jason Hehir, the director of Down In The Valley seems to be on the same page:
(1) The focus of DITV is the resilience of Sacramento's fans, the inner workings of billion dollar deals & why sports matter to us all.— Jason Hehir (@jasonmhehir) October 12, 2015
(2) I'm proud to be telling this story & I look forward to everyone seeing it soon.— Jason Hehir (@jasonmhehir) October 12, 2015
The concerns of sports fans aren't important when it comes to sexual assault issues. What we want and how we cope with KJ's past is enormously inconsequential. With that context, the hardest part of this for me as a Kings fan is how I separate my appreciation for his role with saving the Kings from the monster of a person KJ allegedly is.
Sacramento's story will be told. It's disappointing that it is being delayed. But given the circumstances, it's more important that the story be told right. We can be upset, but ESPN made the right call.