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Talking to the Disenfranchised

There are no “R”s in Washington

Mark Davis Meets With Nevada Tourism Officials About Moving Raiders To Las Vegas Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

If there is one universal reality in American politics today it is that the constituencies on all sides of the most contentious issues do not feel listened to by the people who are making the decisions. American's feel disenfranchised and nowhere is that more obvious than here where our fans have quite literally lost their franchise.

Public dissatisfaction with the process is rampant and people increasingly find their conversations and information gathering taking place in polarized settings surrounded by like opinions. Sometimes it seems as if people who haven't been members of that same peer group for a decade are speaking a different language.

Tim Lieweke is the new guy. He hasn't been in our peer group for a decade, felt our pain or fought battles by our side. He walked into a pretty tense and toxic situation and fair or unfair he's been criticized by fans for just about everything that has come out of his mouth.

The Oak View Group is on one hand perplexed by the cool reception they've received and, on the other, simply trying not to say much of anything that can be perceived as directed towards Chris Hansen's fans and supporters until they can figure it out. They get that they walked into a set of circumstances that are "not of their making" and have not as of yet come up with a way to address those circumstances directly.

On the surface I understand this approach. Why change anything when you are and winning handily? Why focus on engagement with one group that is overtly hostile when virtually everybody else seems welcoming and friendly?

There are multiple reasons why I think it is important for OVG to figure out an approach to communicating with Sonics fans. For one thing their inability to deal with it head on is only serving to re-enforce the perception that NBA fans are unimportant to their plan and perceived as "unnecessary" to the building itself. The muddled message that mostly seems standoffish to NBA fans and is diminishing fan excitement for a project that otherwise seems to be on rails.

Last week several people on this blog indicated that it was time to stop with the bickering and move forward into productive conversation about the OVG project. In the spirit of those posts I'm asking the honest question of how should they go about it? How should they start the conversation given the reality that people really, really like Chris Hansen and his building? How do they move forward given the reality that the KeyArena has a lot of emotional baggage and was first suggested as a viable Sodo arena by Sonics antagonist Geoff Baker?

My belief is that this is going to be a process. It is not going to happen overnight and there are some people who will never be won over. Despite that they have to work towards incremental process and put themselves out there. I know that they will get beat up for just about everything they say but they will never learn how to talk to Sonics fans unless they actually start by talking to Sonics fans.

The first thing they need to say to us is that they want to bring the Sonics back. Forget guarantees or getting ahead of the commissioners, just convince us that you want it to start and then we can have a discussion about how.

In the end they will need us. This whole endeavor is too hard and faces too much opposition to think that they will not need every available supporter to get it done.

Hopefully we can keep this productive. If you were a focus group for OVG how would you advise them to approach this?