Sonics to Seattle: Screw us? Screw you!

Owners argue that poor attendance means city doesn't care about team -- which owners have destroyed and tried to move.

Published June 12, 2008 9:00PM (EDT)

The Seattle Sonics are arguing in court papers that they should be allowed to get out of their lease at Key Arena by pointing to the number of no-shows at Sonics games as "compelling evidence of the level of disinterest" in the team on the part of the local public.

This is a little like a kid who murders his parents, then begs for mercy because he's an orphan.

The Sonics are trying to get out of their lease and move to Oklahoma City, which owner Clay Bennett and his partners have been trying to do since they bought the team in 2006, right before they started denying, for a while, that that's what they wanted to do.

The city argues that the Sonics should have to fulfill their lease by playing through the 2009-10 season, something Bennett has claimed would cost the him and his partners upward of $60 million in losses. Bennett said in a deposition that the club would make $18.8 million playing in Oklahoma City.

"While the city relies on the interests of the public at large, the public is not a party to the lease," the brief, quoted by the Associated Press, says, arguing that the public's "interests are legally irrelevant." And anyway, the team says, the public doesn't care: "The great majority of the public has a yawning indifference to the Sonics' departure."

The Sonics put themselves in the unusual position of arguing that their announced attendance figures -- 13,355 a game to watch a horrible team this year -- are really a load of baloney. Actual attendance was 9,146 per game this season, the brief says.

"In other words, nearly one-third of those who paid for a ticket did not attend," the brief says. "This is, unfortunately, compelling evidence of the level of disinterest."

Splitting hairs here on word usage if not ideas, but the people of Seattle aren't disinterested in the Sonics. They're uninterested in watching a 60-loss team whose owners are sparing no expense in trying to move it 2,000 miles away, and have overseen the club's destruction on the court in the meantime. Seattleites have supported the Sonics just fine over the years. But who doesn't have limits?

Using the public's lack of support for a team that's actively giving that public the finger as evidence that the city can't properly support a team is flat-out dishonesty. In other words, it's par for the course in the game of teams, cities and arenas.

By Salon Staff

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