During the course of the last year I have spent a great deal of time advocating on Clay Bennett's behalf. While I don't regret that decision I have certainly re-thought it a number of times.
The decision by Save Our Sonics to support him early was not made lightly, and it was not made uninformed. In initial conversations with the team and the PBC's representatives it seemed clear that they would make a sincere effort to remain in the region. This sentiment was echoed too loudly to be ignored by heavy hitters throughout the region. From senators like Margarita Prentice to industry leaders, to lobbyists in Olympia there was a clear consensus that the Bennett ownership group had successfully pitched the fact that they deserved the benefit of the doubt and that they were doing more than the previous ownership group to get something done. To believe that he entered this process with poor intentions was to believe that he had pulled the wool over the eyes of some extremely smart and powerful people.
So SOS&S decided to play the odds. Clay owned the team and the best chances of keeping them here was to empower him to do so, always knowing that allegiances could shift at any time.
Early in the process it became obvious that there was a difference of opinion regarding any type of campaign or groundswell of support. Bennett's own private nature, combined with advice he was getting from Seattle strategists and employees led the team to pursue a strategy of getting this done behind closed doors, without engaging the fan base in general. There have been times that I feel that this decision amounted to an intentional "tanking' of the effort and others where I believe that it had a chance to succeed, simply failed. I will say that I truly believed that a good chunk of that strategy developed inside the Sonics Seattle based front office, with Oklahoma City interests frequently questioning it and looking for reassurance on our end.
SOS&S became rapidly frustrated but unwilling to risk the Renton arena with a public dispute. In February of 2007 we sent correspondence to the Bennett camp advising that unless some basic effort was made to fix these PR problems we would be forced to withdraw our support publicly during the legislative session. As a result of this letter we entered into a series of meetings that I believe did make an impact on the process. Unfortunately it was too little, too late and in many ways the legislative package was doomed from the start.
Make no mistakes about it, Bennett was given no fair shot by the Washington legislature and from what I understand was treated quite rudely. At one point near the end of the session I got a call from someone in his camp asking what to do about Frank Chopp and advising that Clay had personally left seven messages begging for a meeting with Chopp and never received a reply. From what I have heard Clayton Bennett is a proud man who took extreme personal issue with this treatment.
To this day Bennett has still maintained publicly that he wants to remain in Seattle. I believe however that these statements have to be subject to question based on his behavior of the last several months. During this time frame he has never returned a call from our camp and according to reports from people around the state we are not alone. Potential development partners, political leaders, trade association leaders, all describe Clay Bennett's "open door" as more of an "unsupervised answering machine" where you leave messages and then never receive a callback.
Just over one week ago I contacted Bennett's office advising them that SOS&S had formed a new committee, "A Deal Is a Deal" PAC with the intention of filing a public initiative which would block the mayors ability to negotiate an opt out of the lease. In a "speak now or forever hold your peace" type letter we advised that we had this mechanism in place, it had been reviewed, and would legally bind them to Seattle until 2010. I asked that, if there were any way they could convince me of their honest intentions could we please have a discussion now, before I potentially interfered in the process.
I received a single reply to this letter which indicated that they would get back to me shortly and wanted to talk. I would guess that yesterday's announcement is my further reply and I can only read into it that they don't want to talk.
I can no longer come up with any reasons why Clay would be unwilling to have dialog with those who want to publicly support him. Why he has completely and totally ignored the idea of communicating with fans on the ground. At this point I can only assume the worst and take his words with skepticism knowing that he is likely trying to steal our teams. I hope to be wrong about this a will willingly apologize to him if/when I find reason to.
Early next week A Deal is a Deal, PAC will be filing an initiative designed to enforce the Seattle SuperSonics lease through the 2010 season. After EXTENSIVE legal review we believe this option to be legally binding and virtually assured to pass. The time it takes to get it on the ballot will depend on the number of volunteers and financial contributions we receive. Most likely the campaign will kick into full gear coinciding with Basketball season and we will publicly ask the mayor to restrain from subverting the will of the people until this matter is voted on.
If we can receive sufficient financial contributions we believe that we can have the required signatures in as little as 3-4 weeks. Checks can be made out to "A Deal is A Deal, PAC" and mailed to 2622 NW Market St., Suite A, Seattle WA 98107
As a PAC we will be subject to public disclosure of all donations. Unused funds will be returned pro-rata to those who made the donations.
Thanks to all our fans and supporters.