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When Clay Bennett, owner of the Seattle SuperSonics, announced his intent to move the team to Oklahoma last November and change its name to the Sooners, SuperSonics fans rallied to prevent the move. By the time the battle reached the district courtroom of Judge Marsha Pechman in mid June, the Save Our Sonics organization included as many as 10,000 fans. Both sides in the profilic Seattle v. Professional Basketball Club LLC (PBC) case asked Judge Pechman, who is expected to make a decision next Wednesday, to consider the public for different reasons.
In the city’s trial brief, Seattle argues under a breach of contract theory. Basically, Seattle and PBC entered into a contract that specified that Seattle would rebuild the Key Arena at a cost of over $80 million dollars in exchange for PBC’s promise to keep the team in Seattle through the 2009-10 season. The city argues that the Sonics bring intangible benefits to Seattle in the form of civic pride and a sense of community. PBC argues the contract financially burdens both sides and, although the public is not a party to the contract, the people of Seattle are indifferent to whether the team stays or goes.
Whether or not Judge Pechman considers the public in her decision, her ruling will not necessarily dictate where the Sonics will play the next two seasons as settlement discussions will likely continue after the courtroom drama ends.
The arguments of the city and PBC bring up an interesting question: should fans have a say in whether a team goes or stays? The counterargument to fans dictating the presence of sports teams is playing out in Charlotte, NC as a local lawyer, with no intention of owning a team, attempts to bring major league baseball into town. The truth is, professional sports teams require money to operate and someone has to foot the bill. Unfortunately, sometimes that comes at a cost, not of money, but public pride.
- Britt Doolittle
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