He actually had the audacity to say that this is what's best. Starbucks coffee baron Howard Schultz, the Seattle Supersonics principal owner, tried to present last week's sale of the team to a group from Oklahoma City as a celebratory affair. But the bal-loons and streamers screamed of audaciousness, disingenuousness and just plain B.S.
And frankly, it was insulting.
The sale was a good thing for Schultz and the group of Sonics owners he led. They made $75 million or so in the five years they owned the team. Which is good work if you can get it.
But the truth is that Schultz and Co. sold the city out. Sure, the team's lease with the city isn't a good one from the team's point of view. The luxury suites inside probably need a new coat of paint. But that lease was in place when Schultz bought the team. And the absurd economic model under which the NBA operates was already broken when he took the helm. Meaning Schultz should have known what he was getting into. He should have known that player salaries are absurd. He should have known about the lease. He should have known that the Sonics were the first team to get a new stadium, not the next in line for a new pleasure palace.
He should have known that owning an NBA team is acting as a private owner of a public trust. The Sonics are a civic institution, and those rich enough to buy an NBA team should behave with that in mind. It isn't a business like, say, Starbucks. The rewards are not at the end of the spread sheet. It's a rarefied world in which he lives. Rarefied enough that Schultz cashed in something like $50 million in stocks and options since May and then intimated through a spokeperson that he sold them because he had to.
So now Schultz joins the ranks of other notorious Seattle sports team owners. Roll call: George Argyros. Jeff Smulyan. Ken Behring. But Schultz will lead the pack. His sale will in all likelihood lead to Seattle's oldest professional team, and the only one to have won a championship, bolting town.
There was still time, Howard, despite your claim that everything was at an impasse with the city. The lease isn't up until 2010. You didn't need to sell now, you didn't need to sell out of state. That you did says a great deal about you and your priorities. And skip the public laments on radio and TV. No one's buying it.
Enough's enough. End of rant. And after a little ranting in print, nothing sooths the soul like a nice cappuccino.