This Thursday, arguments between the City of Seattle and the Sonics come to a close, and the decision as to whether the team remains in Seattle for the foreseeable future falls into the hands of Judge Marsha Pechman.
There are other factors involved – will the city appeal a verdict and thereby postpone the movement, will Howard Schultz’ pending lawsuit delay relocation, will Clay Bennett staple Aubrey McClendon’s mouth shut, and so forth – but this Thursday is obviously a large step in the future of the team.
Sadly, it is entirely possible Pechman will rule for the team. Observers indicate the city failed to effectively persuade an impartial observer the Sonics provide intangible benefits to the region. Further, the now-infamous “Poisoned Well” PowerPoint file – created with the best of intentions to help keep the team – may wind up being yet another impediment to that goal.
All of this is for the judge to decide. And while my influence over her decision is equivalent to my influence over PJ Carlesimo’s roster decisions, allow me to make one argument:
Allowing Clay Bennett to walk away with the Sonics would be a disgrace.
Set aside the legal arguments for a moment, and approach this situation from a viewpoint a mile up into the clouds. Bennett bought this team with two partners with the intention of moving it to Oklahoma City. Only a naive person would believe otherwise.
At all forks in the road, Bennett and his group have consistently opted to take the path which hastened the team’s departure from Seattle.
Present a half-baked proposal to the legislature? Check.
Gut the team’s roster to save money? Check.
Repeatedly make comments indicating your intentions to move? Check.
Work in coordination with Oklahoma City to move while simultaneously telling Seattlites you’re a “man possessed” to keep the team here? Check.
Apply to the NBA to move a full year ago? Check.
In all instances, in all aspects, Bennett has lied, deceived, extorted and manipulated, all with the knowledge and willing participation of David Stern and the NBA. If the ongoing trial was an argument over whether Bennett’s group is pack of despicable liars with the moral authority of a Capitol Hill lobbyist, Pechman would have ruled for the city five minutes after opening arguments concluded.
Yes, Bennett has a legal argument the city worked hand-in-glove with local businessmen to forestall his departure. Yes, Bennett may be correct that the team would be sufficiently satisfying the remaining two years of its lease with a cash settlement.
But this case is a mirror upon one of the greatest ills of American society circa 2008 – the patronizing way in which the general public is treated by those in power. When faced with a housing crisis, the Washington power-brokers quickly acted to aid those making the bad loans, while ignoring those who were truly suffering. Opinion polls routinely show an American public completely and utterly sick of Washington, and a hopeless feeling spreads across the land like a case of West Nile Virus run rampant.
I understand Judge Pechman’s ruling will do little to remedy those problems. But still, would it not be nice, for once, to see the manipulative David Stern be forced to swallow a dose of medicine? Would it not be satisfying to watch Clay “The Extortionist” Bennett crawl back to Oklahoma City and admit defeat?
The evidence in this case is far from overwhelming for either side. For once, just once, let us hope the general public gets a chance to feel what it’s like to be a winner.
Howard Schultz did not have to sell the team to Bennett. Bennett is no more duplicitous in this than Schultz is. You cannot say on the one hand that Bennett is guilty while Schultz is innocent. And Schultz's argument that "Bennett lied to him" is ridiculous. Schultz did not become a successful billionaire in big business without being able to spot and handle BS. Shultz knew which way the wind was blowing and that a new arena was never going to get built. Bennett was there in the right place at the right time with cash in hand and Schultz was more than happy to dump the team to Bennett. For Schultz to file law suit now is the truly dispicable act ... Only a naive 3rd grader would see Schultz's lawsuit as anything more than a weak attempt to save face, sell coffee, and get off the hook for having a hand in Seattle losing its franchise.
As far as I am concerned, any list of professional sports owners in contemporary American sports would be chock-full of deceptive businessmen who routinely try to finance their shoddy economic models on the backs of taxpayers.
You're right, Schultz has more than enough blood on his hands, and his lawsuit is - at least partially - an attempt by him to clear his name in Seattle.
I disagree, though, that his motivations are entirely self-serving. The contract of sale signed by Bennett clearly stated that Bennett was to put forth a "good faith" effort to keep the team in Seattle. I truly believe that Schultz believed it was not possible for a local owner to convince the legislature to go along with renovating KeyArena, and that the threat of relocation was the best way to accomplish this goal. Where the situation went sour is when Bennett fraudulently bought the team under the pretence of keeping it here, when all along he intended to move it. It's fine for him to move the team if he tried his best to make it work here and failed; and that point, he would have no other choice but to move.
But Bennett didn't try his best, he didn't even try at all.
"Unclean Hands" from Lawrence Pre-trial Brief:
An Unclean Hands Defense Requires Fraudulent or Willful Misconduct Related
to the Immediate Matter in Litigation that Causes Injury.
An unclean hands defense will defeat a specific enforcement claim in very limited and
well-established circumstances, which do not exist in this case. Unclean hands exist only
when a party has engaged in fraudulent or willful misconduct, with respect to the immediate
matter in litigation that causes the injury of which the party complains. See J.L. Cooper &
Co., 113 P.2d at 857-58 (Wash. 1941). Absent injury, hands cannot be unclean. See J.L.
Cooper & Co. v. Anchor Secs., 113 P.2d 845, 857-58 (Wash. 1941); McKelvie v. Hackney,
360 P.2d 746, 752 (Wash. 1961). In the context of a specific performance claim, “unclean
hands” typically is at issue where the party seeking specific performance induced the other party to enter into the contract through fraud or misrepresentation. Cascade Timber Co. v.
Northern Pac. Ry. Co., 184 P.2d 90, 104-05 (Wash. 1947) (cited in Crafts, 162 P.3d at 386
Importantly, as a matter of law, a party cannot act in bad faith if it is suing to enforce
its contractual rights. See Badgett v. Sec. State Bank, 807 P.2d 356, 360 (Wash. 1991). The
City cannot have unclean hands in this action where it “simply stands on its rights to require
performance of a contract according to its terms.” Id.
PBC claims injury based on the City’s alleged wrongful conduct, but those are losses
PBC claims it will suffer as a result of its lame duck status. The City did not wrongfully
induce PBC to buy the Sonics and assume the obligations of the Lease. The City did not
induce PBC to announce it wanted to breach the Lease and move the team to Oklahoma City
before the end of the Lease. An unclean hands defense does not exist.
Finally, PBC’s Machiavellian “plan” theory is not supported by the facts. From the
day PBC bought the Sonics, the City announced its intent to enforce the Lease and obtain the
benefits of having the Sonics play in Seattle through the Lease term. Indeed, because of the
substantial benefits that flow to the City from the presence of the team, the City has worked to
find a long term solution at a renovated KeyArena with the Sonics prior owners, with PBC
and with Matt Griffin’s group subsequent to PBC’s announced plan to move to Oklahoma
City. The City’s hope to find a solution that would keep the Sonics in Seattle was not
wrongful. Moreover, PBC admits it threatened to breach before the City filed suit. The
City’s interactions with the Griffin Group came after PBC’s threat to breach. Thus, the City’s
suit and subsequent interactions with the Griffin Group cannot support an unclean hands defense.
Seems the Sonic's "unclean hands" theatrics will do little to sway the Judge ...
I would have to say that if the Sonics were something that you wanted to keep that you should have worked harder with your city officaials along with the previous owner to build a better facility and one that can actually be worth calling a priffessional venue. I am a native of Southern California now living in Oklahoma City and I will say that the City of Oklahoma has not only supported the Hornets like a real city they will do the same for the Sonics. To truly want a team to stay would not be some half ditch effort save them at the end. You have to realize that no matter what at the end of the contrac tthey will be leaving to Oklahoma City regardless. Why not let it go and let Clay and the rest of the co-owners have the team and you can rebuild a venue that could be worth having a pro team again. I will also say that you should be lucky that he is letting you keep that wonderful name SuperSonics since he will be renaming and moving the team all together.
All I can say is if your multi million dollar busnies people there can not hold on to them why should a bunch of crying fans hold on to them. Yes Clay and company has done a lot to move them but it is for the best of the NBA as well as the current personnel.
Deal with it you are going to lose the team and they will be located ina city that will welcome them with open arms just like they did with the Hornets. I hope that you all just realize this and run back to Bill Gates and ask him to maybe buy you a team.
Say Bye-Bye! They will be in OKC. After Seattle wastes all of this money in court, Seattle will also lose the Sonics. If Seattle really cared, Seattle wouldn't be in this position to begin with. This is like a bad marriage, once one partner decides they had enough, they set their mind on leaving, and finally they are gone. Seattle can drag it out in court and act sour, but the fact of the matter remains: Sonics are now OWNED by Oklahomans and will be MOVED to OKLAHOMA. That's right Dorothy has clicked her heels 3 times. There's no place like Okla-home-a City!!!
Not so fast OKC, Judge Pechman will most probably decide for the City and appeal by the Sonics will be fruitless as they won almost all of the objections in court. But let's suppose the City doesn't win and the Sonics do ... there is still a separate trial to determine damages, an appeal should the City decide to file, the Schultz case.
It sounds to me as if the end might justify the means. Wally has Litvin's ear. Wedge, baby, Wedge.
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