LEARY: Franchise relocation is the toughest process in sports

learycolorWEBAccording to Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion, an object at rest will remain at rest. The only way a resting object will move is if it is acted on by some foreign, unbalanced force.

Now, Newton died before the inventions of the four major American sports, but his first law might explain why franchise relocation is such a difficult process in the modern sports world. From the infamous middle-of-the-night move of the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984 to the recent relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, relocation is a dirty and painful undertaking that almost always leads to bad blood from fans toward the league approving the moves.

In the summer of 2008, my hometown NBA team, the Seattle SuperSonics, moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. The move resulted from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz selling the team to a group led by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett. The move crushed Seattle, both from a sports perspective and an economic standpoint.

On the sports side, Seattle loves basketball more than it loves the environment or dreary, rainy days. The high school basketball culture in the city is second-to-none, and I consider it a top-five basketball market. In a column a few years back, Grantland’s and ESPN’s Bill Simmons was asked what one thing he would change about the sports landscape. He said he would put an NBA team back in Seattle.

In recent weeks, reports surfaced that Seattle native and hedge fund investor Chris Hansen, who spearheaded the push for a new state-of-the-area in the city, had purchased the Sacramento Kings with intentions to move the team to Seattle. The deal is reportedly done and only awaits approval from the NBA Board of Governors and the relocation committee (which is ironically headed by Bennett).

But Sacramento has something on its side that Seattle didn’t five years ago, and that’s a mayor who understands what it takes to save a team from moving. Former NBA all-star Kevin Johnson, Sacramento’s mayor, launched into action after the rumors arose, recruiting potential investors to prevent the Board of Governors from approving the sale.

Regardless of where the Kings end up next season, bad blood will without a doubt exist between Seattle and Sacramento, Sacramento and the NBA and Sacramento and the Maloof family, which reportedly sold the team to Hansen. I know this because similar distaste exists between Seattle and the NBA, Oklahoma City, Schultz and Bennett.

Franchise relocation hurts sports because that sort of bad blood is pretty much unavoidable. But sometimes, what has to be done has to be done.

One thing that has to be done, according to me, Bill Simmons and a lot of basketball experts, is an NBA team getting moved to Seattle. I feel you, Sacramento. Your situation is unenviable. But we need, and frankly, deserve our team back.

Comments are closed