When I was almost six my parents got divorced. So as to not release anything that could hurt people (yet to be fair and honest), all I will say is that it wasn’t the cleanest split in the world. As a child I wasn’t sure what the deal was, why my Mother was leaving and why I felt as if I was to fault.
It is no secret that it took me a long time to come to terms with the situation and move forward (and in full disclosure, there are still things that irk me), but I at least don’t feel that I am the one to blame anymore. This is what the city of Seattle needs to understand: third parties are never to blame when a nasty divorce happens: two entities realize that this isn’t what the best is for them.
The problem that Seattle fans have right now is that they are stuck in the middle of a split that is getting messy, hurtful and just plain ridiculous. The “divorce” between the ownership (Sonics going forward) and the City of Seattle is getting ugly and the fans are helpless.
Yesterday it was brought forth to the world that the Sonics owners – co-owners Clay Bennett, Aubrey McClendon and Tom Ward were lying to the not only the city of Seattle but the NBA and NBA Commissioner David Stern.
E-mails recovered from dates starting shortly after the State of Washington turned down the Sonics’ request for $500 Million to go to a new arena, stated things that fans believed but no one knew for sure.
"Is there any way to move here [Oklahoma City] for next season or are we doomed to have another lame duck season in Seattle?" Ward said in an e-mail.
Bennett then replied: "I am a man possessed! Will do everything we can. Thanks for hanging with me boys, the game is getting started!"
"That's the spirit!! I am willing to help any way I can to watch ball here [in Oklahoma City] next year," Ward said.
Then McClendon chimes in: "Me too, thanks Clay!"
When Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz sold the team to the Oklahoma-based businessmen there were many quotes from Bennett (the head of the new owners) stating that they would make every “effort possible to keep the team in Seattle”.
This is why the majority of the previous owners chose to sell. They knew they couldn’t afford the team but that the “new blood” might be able to get something done; now they have been lied to.
The Seattle Times discussed this with former Sonics president and co-owner Wally Walker who stated that he voted against the deal and that the “good faith” that Bennett and his cohorts described during the sale, has been proven a lie. He went further stating: "For the people who voted for the deal, the good-faith, best-efforts promise was a significant factor in supporting the deal. This is not what they signed up for."
Add to this fiasco the previous quote from McClendon to an Oklahoma paper: “We didn’t buy the team to keep it in Seattle; we hoped to come here.” NBA Commisionser – and Bennett’s friend – David Stern said that if the quote was accurate there would be a “huge fine”. McClendon was soon writing a $250,000 check to the NBA.
Wait, it gets better.
Aug. 17th 2007 (four months after previous emails): Clay Bennett send email to David Stern:
“David you know how I feel about our relationship both personally and professionally. You are among a very few, not withstanding our relative brief actual physical time together that have significantly affected my life. I view you as a role model as an extraordinarily gifted executive, a deep compassionate thinker, and a person with a rare and unique charisma that brings out the best in everyone you touch. You are just one of my favorite people on earth and I cherish our relationship Sonics business aside. I would never breach your trust. As absolutely remarkable as it may seem, Aubrey and I have NEVER discussed moving the Sonics to Oklahoma City, nor have I discussed it with ANY other member of our ownership group. I have been passionately committed to our process in Seattle, and have worked my ass off.”
Terrible punctuation problems aside, does this "bro-mance" make you feel dirty? What if you knew that in June of 2007 (two months prior to the Bennett/Stern “lovefest”) Tim Romani, an arena consultant for the Sonics, said in an email to Bennett that he would start "reaching out" to Oklahoma City Manager Jim Couch to "engage him in deal negotiations," ( 1)
Let me go back to this quote of Bennett’s: “I have been passionately committed to our process in Seattle, and have worked my ass off.”
Does passionately committed mean proposing a $500 Million arena in Seattle, which you KNOW the government won’t approve? Then stating over and over that Key Arena, even with renovations, is not a viable NBA arena? Does passionately committed mean that once Seattle turns it down, you go to your home town and tell them that a $120 Million fixer-upper of their stadium – Ford Center- will work fine?
Let’s do a quick breakdown:
Ford Center: 19,675 capacity, 3,380 club seats, seven party suites and 49 luxury suites. $89 Million to build with $121.6 Million coming from the state to build an NBA practice facilty.
Key Arena: 17,098 capacity, 1,702 club seats, 58 luxury suites. $95.5 Million renovation in 1994.
Since practice facilities don’t add any seats, let’s just put it this way: Clay Bennett and his co-owners want the city of Seattle to pony up $500 Million to put in 2,577 seats, 1,678 club seats and take out 9 luxury suites. This may be simplistic but let’s say that there are 10 seats in a luxury suite, the differences are 4,165 total seats.
That comes to a difference of $120,048 per seat. Sorry, Clay Clay but that is not a feasible option.
This is equivalent to a man and woman who get a divorce, the woman gets the kids and the dog, moves the family to a different state, wants the man to buy them a house, then sues the man and tells the Judge that it is because the man wouldn't pay $120,048 for each nail in the house.
And who is stuck in the middle? The kids.