Here we sit today one month away from what we at SOS intend to make the most publicized trial in the history of Sports.
Honestly I never felt that the NBA would allow it to go this far. The sensitive portion of the depositions has for the most part been concluded, a number of scandalous stories have been written, and clearly the league has been tarnished. Up to this point they have proven to be resilient and also managed to keep the coverage of this issue regionalized.
As we clear the one month deadline this will become more difficult to do. Save Our Sonics has recently beefed up our PR department and begun working with much more manpower and a newly acquired comprehensive media list. As the NBA playoffs continue, the New Orleans Hornets potentially see more time in the limelight, and the court date comes into sight we will have a larger platform to be aggressively pitching this scandal to every major television network and investigative show. We will ensure that one way or another each and every e-mail manages to be reviewed in the media. In short, it will be ugly.
One thing that is certain is that a sense of desperation is beginning to emerge on the side of the NBA and Clayton Bennett. Sources around the country indicate that league officials have begun to reach out in search of brokered solutions. One individual described the sales pitch from a top league official who stated "The league is prepared to take a substantially more active role in resolving the stalemate in Seattle."
These reports come on the heels of a board of governors meeting where, despite the 28-2 vote Clayton Bennett absorbed a great deal of damage. On the day of that meeting one national reporter commented to me, "I was in the room when they relocated to New Orleans, when they relocated to Memphis... hell I was covering the NFL when Art Modell announced he was moving the Browns from Cleveland. The NBA presented those events as great successes for the league and the new city. Even Modell tried to put a happy face on things. Today though, Bennett and Stern looked like they were beaten with a stick. This took a toll on them."
Confirmed reports from the BOG meeting indicate that owners were not supportive of a prolonged lame duck period and the attention it would garner. They demanded and received from Clay Bennett reassurances that if the move were approved it would take place as scheduled this season. The collective owners were not happy with this situation and wanted it behind them. In the process of these assurances Clay Bennett made very concise and unambiguous promises that a buyout of the lease was possible and that he would get it done prior to trial.
So here we sit, one month before trial our expectation is that Bennett is getting somewhat desperate. As such don't be surprised if and when reports come down the pipeline of a much larger financial offer to buy out of the lease.
If and when that offer comes we as fans need to be aware of who may be tempted to accept Bennettâ€™s blood money.
The Mayors office has remained resolute and consistent. They will not entertain offers which strip the city of our NBA membership. Given the blatant bad faith, the heavy handed tactics and the out and out fraud it would be unethical to simply take Clay Bennettâ€™s check and give him what he wants. If anything the recent litigation has increased the will of this administration. The leaked e-mails paint a picture of blatant deceit and disrespect for our region.
As Governor Gregoire stated "We've all been lied to."
Even while these lies have occurred Bennettâ€™s lawyers have attacked our region with extremely heavy handed tactics. In their recent depositions of both Mayor Nickels and Deputy Mayor Tim Cies the firm of Byrnes and Keller resorted to consistent and repetitive badgering which was disrespectful to the sitting mayor of a major American city. Those who know Nickels well do not believe he will respond favorably to this type of treatment. Were he to suddenly reverse course and accept a financial buyout of the lease it would be nothing short of a complete and total betrayal of sports fans. It would be a breaking of his personal word. I do not believe the Mayor will even consider such a course of action unless he is completely undermined by our regions other leaders.
Given that we are one month from trial it is an appropriate time to remind people of our position on this matter. The mayor deserves e-mails supporting his stance and praising his resolve. The Governor, despite her inaction last session needs encouragement to continue working this issue, which she has quietly attended to over the last two months.
Also this would be an appropriate time to ask members of the city council who wants to be the person to auction off a piece of cities our cultural history. One of the most disappointing occurrences in recent months has been the willingness of our own city council to provide good quotes for the Bennett propaganda machine. Council President Richard Conlin has indicated in the past that if the dollars escalate the council would have to consider it. He needs to be asked clearly, IS HE THE MAN TO SELL THE SONICS?
City Council needs to understand that they cannot help the process with public comments. Council Newcomer Bruce Harrel is a huge sports fan and considered an ally in this fight. As such we were disappointed when even he indicated that there could be a magic number that the council could not in good faith refuse. I ask again DOES BRUCE HARRELL WANT TO BE KNOWN AS THE MAN WHO SOLD THE SONICS?
If not he should refrain from these comments. There is no magic number that should entice our city to deal with people who have been unethical in their dealings with us. Harrell, like the rest of council should simply refrain from these comments in the papers. They are both unproductive and really borderline insulting. There comes a point where a city must hold itself to standards and this should include telling the PBC that it does not matter how deep their pockets are. This is not a public auction and you cannot excuse your unethical conduct by writing a big enough check.
Each and every member of our council needs to go on record as supporting the Mayors authority to negotiate any settlement from a position of strength. Furthermore each of them should be asked to re-affirm that the city of Seattle will not accept any â€œfire-saleâ€ to Clay Bennett simply because his check will clear. To do so would be to sell out the long term visibility and financial impact of an NBA team simply so they could implement a few more of their own projects into their own budget this year.
Now would be an appropriate time to remind council of our strong opinion on this matter. Mail to the entire council can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask them not only to support the mayor on this issue, but to refrain from public commentary on the issue. Each and every council member who makes a public comment implying that the cities history is for sale should consider that they are playing right into Bennetts hands to the scorn of basketball fans regionally.
This is not to say that the city should not be prepared to discuss in good faith pre-litigation settlements with either Bennett or the league. It is very much an appropriate time to lessen the rhetoric, return to the negotiating table, and begin looking for solutions. We have to recognize however that any big offers that float across the table are a sign of our strength and their desperation. Resist the temptation to give in on the one non-negotiable part of any settlement, that it include an iron clad guarantee of Sonics basketball in this city.
The big numbers are coming. They are also irrelevant.