Seattle Cashes In, Settles Lawsuit Against SuperSonics

After 41 years of NBA basketball in the City of Seattle, the SuperSonics will begin moving to Oklahoma City immediately, as the parties have reached a settlement of Seattle’s lawsuit against the team.  The settlement allows the SuperSonics to move immediately in exchange for a $45 million payout to Seattle, with an additional $30 million due in 5 years should Seattle fail to attract a new NBA franchise.  Seattle retains the name SuperSonics as well as the history and records of the franchise.

This was a case that should have been settled.  If Seattle was victorious, it would have enjoyed 2 years with a franchise that had no interest in playing in its city.  The damage with the fans has been done and 2 lame duck years would have done nothing to assuage the fact that the NBA is leaving Seattle.  If the team were victorious, they would likely face an appeal and additional legal fees, all while delaying their ability to move to Oklahoma City and take advantage of new revenue streams.  For both sides, settlement made good sense.

But this case was about more than good sense, it was about the passion and emotion that is unique to sports.  For Seattle, this case was not about negotiating a large settlement, it was about forcing an owner, Clay Bennett, to keep his word and adhere to his contract.  For fans across the county, Seattle had a chance to show owners of sports franchises that they could not move a team with deep community roots only because another city was more financially attractive.  Owners would be taught that they could not hold up taxpayers and politicians at gunpoint and force public funding of new arenas with luxury suites that guarantee the owners even more money.

Seattle had an opportunity to alter the landscape in the relocation of sports franchises by attempting to force the SuperSonics’ owner to honor his lease with KeyArena.  In the end, however, Seattle could not pass up a hefty sum to forgo that opportunity.  Everything has its price – even 41 years of basketball in Seattle.

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