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The Line You Don't Cross

Three men. Three wrongs. Three letters in response.

The line.
The line.
Mike Ehrmann

In the last several months during the battle for the Sacramento Kings and in the continuing aftermath, three people have crossed lines that should not have been crossed. Truthfully, there have been more than that, but I'm focusing on three -- Chris Hansen, Vivek Ranadive, and David Stern.

I have written letters to each of them. Since I am a poor hick in Tieton who can't afford postage stamps, I am posting them below. I'm pretty sure they all read my stuff.

I don't expect these letters to be all that popular in Seattle, Sacramento, or New York, but understand one thing in advance. These letters represent my own personal opinions. They do not reflect those of Brian Robinson or the rest of the Sonics Rising staff.


Dear Mr. Hansen:

Since your name surfaced nearly two years ago, I have supported you in every way possible. Like many Sonics fans, I fully embraced your effort to build an NBA/NHL arena in Sodo. I left voice mails, sent emails, commented on message boards, attended what meetings I could, and encouraged my friends to do the same. As environmental and economic reports are released in coming months, I will be there for you again if needed.

I fully embraced your decision to buy the Sacramento Kings. Though I didn't want Sacramento fans to experience what I experienced in 2008, I felt it would happen eventually whether Seattle was involved or not. I still believe you did the right thing and that the NBA made a terrible decision that may have only delayed the inevitable.

With that said, there is a line that should not have been crossed and you stepped over it with eyes wide open. I can't embrace your decision to fund the arena opposition in Sacramento for one fundamental reason. I wouldn't want fellow NBA fans in Sacramento to fund our arena opposition.

I was relieved to read your statement of apology when the story first broke and more recently relieved to hear of mitigating factors not initially revealed and that you have agreed to pay a substantial fine as part of an FPPC settlement.

But here is the part that I am most relieved about. You are a good man who admits when he does something wrong and who tries to make amends when he can. The following comes from the statement you released on September 9.

I would also like to highlight that I will take steps to prevent any signatures collected by GoCo from being submitted to the opposition. As it was never my intent to directly fund signature gathering efforts, I completely agree with the numerous Kings fans who have taken the time to write me and suggest this course of action. It is also important to note that this decision is not part of my proposed settlement with the FPPC, and is one I am making completely voluntarily. It's clearly the right thing to do given the circumstances and I wish the City of Sacramento and the Kings the best in their efforts going forward.

To be honest, I'm not sure what you can legally do to prevent those signatures from being used against the Sacramento arena, but I'm pleased to know you will try. It is "clearly the right thing to do".

In a way, it seems unfair to ask you to do this when others in this saga have stepped over similar lines of their own. David Stern devoted all of his energy to undermine your business transaction with the Maloofs and Vivek Ranadive used your money to buy the Kings for himself. Both of these things were done without apology and I have also written letters (enclosed) to Stern and Ranadive point out those indiscretions.

Best wishes,

Paul Rogers


Dear Mr. Ranadive:

First of all, congratulations on your successful bid to buy the Kings and keep them in Sacramento. I was very disappointed that they didn't come to Seattle and become the Sonics, but I would've done the same thing were I in your shoes.

Second, I want you to know that I wrote a letter (enclosed) to Chris Hansen to express my disappointment in his decision to fund arena opposition in Sacramento. He crossed a line that should not have been crossed.

With that said, I want to inform you that you crossed a similar line with your own actions. Doing your best to keep the Kings in Sacramento was an honorable thing, but the way you went about it was not.

It is not honorable to use another man's money to buy something you want. I know you needed to ensure that the Maloofs received essentially the same amount of money as they would've gotten had relocation been approved, but give me a break. You should've reimbursed Hansen for the $30 million deposit. You can argue that your actions were legal, but you can't argue that they were ethical.

This was wrong. It doesn't justify what Hansen did in response, but it explains the anger that led to it. For his actions, Hansen apologized, agreed to pay a substantial fine in a settlement, and has agreed to take steps to prevent the petition signatures from being used. Where is your apology and what steps are you prepared to take to make amends?

Here's a suggestion. Refund Hansen his deposit and encourage your fellow owners to offer expansion to Seattle in the next few years.

At any rate, though I'm sure we will disagree on these issues, I wish you luck in your running of the Sacramento Kings.


Paul Rogers


Dear Mr. Stern:

I won't bore you with false pleasantries.

I want you to know that I wrote a letter (enclosed) to Chris Hansen to express my disappointment in his decision to fund arena opposition in Sacramento. He crossed a line that should not have been crossed.

With that said, there have been numerous lines over the years that you have crossed in your relationship with the City of Seattle.

In 2008, you went out of your way to help Clay Bennett pry the Sonics from their home in the northwest. In Bennett's "efforts" to get an arena done in Seattle, you ignored evidence of bad faith on his part. Email evidence revealed that he was "a man possessed" to move the team and had no intention of really trying to keep the team where it was.

When Steve Ballmer emerged with a last ditch effort to keep the Sonics in town, you completely ignored his attempt. You didn't even want to hear the proposal. You didn't lift one finger to see if Seattle could come up with $150 million to get it done. You were offended by Frank Chopp's stubbornness and stupidity and chose to punish Sonics fans for it. Many believe you are punishing us still.

Fast forwarding to earlier this year when Hansen signed a purchase agreement for the Kings...

You did everything in your power to keep the Kings from relocating. When one owner wasn't up to snuff, you exerted your influence to bring another on board. This is honorable in a vacuum, but is a travesty when combined with your total disregard for Sonics fans in 2008.

In this more current saga, you overstepped two big lines.

First, you shared confidential contractual information about the Hansen purchase with the Sacramento group. Why should they get a special warning that the dollars have to come up to match the price? I'm not sure this wasn't illegal on your part. I'm not sure that Hansen couldn't win a lawsuit against the NBA because of it.

Second, you failed to force Vivek Ranadive to reimburse Hansen for his $30 million deposit. You allowed him to include that dollar figure as part of his bid. You allowed him to use Seattle money to keep the team in Sacramento. I'm pretty sure you even encouraged it.

There are several more things I could bring up, but I don't have time. You haven't just crossed some lines, you have jumped over them in a vindictive and remorseless game of hopscotch. Hansen has apologized, agreed to pay a substantial fine as part of a settlement, and agreed to take steps to prevent the petition signatures from being used against the Sacramento arena.

Where is your apology for all the things you have done and what steps are you prepared to take to make amends? I have two suggestions for you.

First, calculate total amount of energy you used to keep the Kings in Sacramento and use the same amount to bring an NBA franchise back to Seattle. I know you can't guarantee one, but you've proven one thing in these last several months. You have enormous influence over your owners. Second, make Ranadive refund Hansen's money.

It would be the right thing to do.


Paul Rogers