Sometimes it is very clear just how blind justice is.
The NBA is a league that suspends players based on a slide rule, forces them to shop at Brooks Brothers, and stays mum on tampering from within its very core. In an era in which it seems every major sports league has its problems, it is safe to argue that the NBA suddenly has the worst of it.
So in this dire time of turmoil, David Stern must to be summoned to crack down on unruly behavior in his league from now on. To start, he punishes for being honest.
It is no secret that the new ownership group of the Seattle Sonics is mostly from the Oklahoma City area. It is also no secret that Seattle is struggling to get a new arena deal. Anyone with any sense of timing has to wonder why a bunch of guys from Oklahoma City are suddenly buying a basketball team from Washington. So why is there punishment for being honest?
Now I know there is protocol for these sort of things, which means lying, lying, and lying. But frankly, I appreciate the honesty Aubrey McClendon brought forth. Here is what he said:
“We started to look around, and at that time the Sonics were going through some ownership challenges in Seattle. So Clay, very artfully and skillfully, put himself in the middle of those discussions and to the great amazement and surprise to everyone in Seattle, some rednecks from Oklahoma, which we’ve been called, made off with the team.”
If you are reading this from a rainy Starbucks cafe you are probably nodding to yourself. The man isn’t lying; an ownership group swooped in because Seattle can’t seem to get an arena deal done. The new owners have ties to an area that has shown a big interest in housing a team. Is there any guess to a possible relocation site if a new building in Seattle falls through? Yeah, I was thinking Moosejaw, Saskatchewan as well.
What bothers me about Stern punishing McClendon and his ownership group is that it is only a measure to save face. He should know as well as anyone what that group’s intentions are with the Sonics. Yet when those intentions are revealed to the public you lose your cool? Why not stop the sale instead of fining new owners for having candor about their plans? And why must the ownership group try to distance themselves from McClendon’s statements?
It is an interesting parallel to his former protegee Gary Bettman, who has been much more aggressive in ownership struggles. The NHL has taken a much firmer stance on keeping teams in their current markets since the most recent league expansion.
Ensuring owners have local interests in Pittsburg, Buffalo, Ottawa, and most recently in Nashville is a much different approach to letting ownership groups come in with intentions unlike Stern’s (or Bettman’s). And while some potential owners have been scared away more than once, Bettman has stood strongly behind his vision for the league and the current markets his teams play in.
Whatever effect that will have on the state of the NHL is yet to be determined. However, it is a unique occurance when Bettman out performs his former mentor in any aspect. Stern’s decision to fine an owner with conflicting goals seems petty at best, no matter what image it depicts to Sonics fans. Seattle knows what is in store for its basketball team if an arena falls through, just as Sabres fans knew the score when John Rigas was carted off to prison. The same can be said for Penguins fans when Mario was getting tired of running the show.
Hopefully for Seattle’s sake the Sonics’ fate will be the same as Buffalo and Pittsburgh. If not, one must wonder if David Stern could have done more to prevent a move.
Money is money, but home will always be home.