What?! You mean a group of Oklahoma City billionaires, desperate to bring a major league team to their home city, had no intention of keeping the Sonics in Seattle when they purchased the team? Who’d a thunk?
OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma City energy tycoon says the group that purchased the Seattle SuperSonics hopes to move the NBA franchise to Oklahoma City, but he acknowledges the team could make more money in the Pacific Northwest.
“But we didn’t buy the team to keep it in Seattle; we hoped to come here,” Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, told The Journal Record for a story in Monday’s edition. “We know it’s a little more difficult financially here in Oklahoma City, but we think it’s great for the community and if we could break even, we’d be thrilled.”
[…] “We started to look around, and at that time the Sonics were going through some ownership challenges in Seattle,” McClendon told the newspaper. “So Clay, very artfully and skillfully, put himself in the middle of those discussions and to the great amazement and surprise to everyone in Seattle, some rednecks from Oklahoma, which we’ve been called, made off with the team.”
That’s right, Clay Bennett — the guy the easy marks at the Seattle Times editorial board judged to be negotiating in good faith — “artfully and skillfully … made off with the team.” Hoity-toity editorialists comfort themselves by dismissing bloggers like me as unserious, but they do their readers a disservice when they infuse their coverage with the kind of naivete that comes from their solemn dedication to establishmentarian objectivity:
There have been whispers and shouts that SuperSonics owner Clay Bennett is only buying time until he can move the teams to his home state of Oklahoma. This is an unfair claim. Bennett has done nothing to suggest that moving the teams is a foregone conclusion.
No, I guess it was never a foregone conclusion, but with Bennett and the other owners willing to lose money in Oklahoma City — in fact, preferring it over making a modest profit in Seattle — it would take a helluva sweet deal to keep the team in the region. You know, something like a free half-billion dollar arena from which they keep all the revenues. Bennett and his buddies never negotiated in good faith (hell, they never even negotiated,) they always intended to move the team to Oklahoma City, and they laughed at the naive, big city rubes who ever believed otherwise. You don’t get to be a billionaire by taking the first deal slapped on the table, yet that’s exactly what the Sonics asked WA state and local officials to do.
Unless the NBA intercedes for the good of the league, the Sonics are moving to Oklahoma City. All the talk thus far has been little more than a charade to keep hopeful fans in their seats until the Key Arena lease expires in 2010.