Seattle being used by NBA

The threat of the Sacramento Kings moving to Seattle was enough to get the Kings a new stadium in California.


Professional sports is a hard, cruel business.

Yet, it's a business built persuading children and adults to become fanatical about pro teams and pro players. The passion fans feel for their teams becomes real -- so real that wins and losses are met with genuine joy and despair. Millions and millions of dollars are spent watching games in person and buying all the clothing that screams -- literally -- the wearer is a true fan.

A way that pro sports leagues have boosted their revenues over the last three decades is by persuading local and state governments to use tax dollars to subsidize the building of the lavish stadiums and arenas.

The home of the Seattle Seahawks football team, CenturyLink Field (formerly Qwest Field), was subsidized by public money as was the Seattle Mariners Baseball Club's diamond, Safeco Field.

But about five years ago Seattle and Washington state said enough is enough and let the Seattle SuperSonics NBA team go to Oklahoma City rather than bow to extortion demands to build a new state-of-the-art arena with tax dollars.

We applauded that principled stand by state government.

But now Seattle has weakened. It is caught up in a movement aimed at stealing an NBA franchise and a National Hockey League franchise from another city under a plan to build a new arena with private and public money.

Ironically, Seattle's mayor and the King County executive insist no taxpayer money will be used although up to $200 million of public funds could be used to finance construction. That money, which would involve a city-county bond issue, would be paid back by a combination of rent paid on the facility and new tax revenues. Hmmm, that kind of sounds like taxpayer money to us.

Anyway, the NBA is now using Seattle's zeal to steal a team as a hammer to get current NBA cities to build bigger, better, brighter arenas. It's working. It was announced Monday that the city of Sacramento has agreed to build a new arena to keep the NBA Kings in town.

The threat of teams moving is real.

In 2008, Seattle lost the SuperSonics, a team that came to Seattle as an expansion franchise in 1967.

And before the Sonics were snatched from Seattle, the Emerald City's first Major League Baseball franchise was pilfered. The Seattle Pilots played just one season, 1969, before being lured to Milwaukee, where they became the Brewers.

Milwaukee had been the victim earlier as its Braves had moved to Atlanta and in 1901, after just one season, the orginal Brewers moved to St. Louis to become the Browns. (A double steal!)

Taking another city's big-time pro franchise happens all the time

But stealing a sports franchise feels rotten. Sadly, it is the way the game is played today.

If Seattle or King County want to getting in a bidding war, that's a decision the public and officials there must make.

But state taxpayers should not be asked or expected to contribute.


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