Wednesday, March 26, 2008

David Stern is a disgrace

As a lot of people know, it is almost a done deal that the Seattle SuperSonics will leave the Emerald City and move to Oklahoma City as soon as possible. NBA commissioner David Stern has said that he will recommend the league allow the Sonics to leave Seattle for OKC at the end of the season.

This is precisely why David Stern is the worst commissioner in sports today. The Sonics have called Seattle home for 40 years. It was one of the teams added in one of the first waves of expansion in NBA history. Stern should be fighting this move tooth and nail. But instead of that, he is rejecting reasonable proposals to renovate Key Arena until the city can afford to build a suitable new arena. Every idea that comes up, he shoots down while claiming the Sonics should be in Oklahoma City. This is the thanks Seattle gets for 40 years of support? The league commissioner abandons the city in favor of Oklahoma City, a city that is only on the radar of the NBA because of its support of the New Orleans Hornets after Hurricane Katrina?

For starters, why would Stern even allow Clay Bennett to buy the Sonics in the first place? It was clear from the beginning that Bennett had purchased the team just so he could move it. Every arena proposal he floated was designed to be rejected, so that he could honestly claim he had given the city a chance to save its team. It was a con job, nothing more. No matter what Bennett says, no matter how many proposals to buy the team he rejects, no matter how much the NBA fines Aubrey McLendon for telling the truth ($250K) and no matter how many proposals he floated that were totally unfair to Seattle, he always intended for the Sonics to move. What would have happened if the city had agreed? What would Bennett have done?

And Stern? Why has he contradicted himself multiple times throughout this ordeal? He originally asked Seattle to come up with $300 million in renovations for KeyArena in 2006. Now the city has done exactly that, and Stern says that the proposal is inadequate to serve the Sonics. That is a complete lie. It is inadequate only because Bennett says it is. $300 million will go a long way toward making KeyArena viable for the Sonics to make money off of it. But Stern's mind is made up. Only something that helps his buddy Bennett get a team in Oklahoma City will be adequate. Seattle could probably accept Bennett's original proposal at this point and be told no deal.

Stern could actually learn a thing or two from his former understudy Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL. Recently, everyone wanted to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins when they went up for sale. Gary Bettman didn't let it happen, demanding that all options in Pittsburgh be exhausted before relocation could be considered. He did the same for Nashville when Jim Balsillie bought the Predators. Stern, by contrast, refused to do anything to help the Sonics, instead working as a puppet for Bennett. He knew as everyone else did that the arena proposal was set up to fail, but he did nothing to stop Bennett. Now he claims it is too late to save the team. To steal a line from Taylor Swift, Mr. Stern, you could have helped if you had wanted to, but no one notices until it is too late to do anything.

David Stern has made a lot of mistakes as the leader of the NBA. The Tim Donaghy scandal appeared to be the worst, but Stern's betrayal of Seattle is a close second at worst. There is no excuse whatsoever for what he has done. The city of Seattle deserved better, and if I were an NBA owner, I would vote no on Seattle's relocation without question.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Taylor Swift.

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