Update: Schultz Starts the Shot Clock

The Sonics owner gives the Legislature an ultimatum, and two senators are not impressed.

After Seattle City Council president Nick Licata popped off, saying the Seattle SuperSonics wouldn't be missed if the franchise moved, an irate Sonics owner took to the media hustings Wednesday, Feb. 1. Howard Schultz threatened to move or sell the team if a March 9 legislative deadline passes in Olympia without legislation to enable a new taxpayer-built Seattle arena. Licata had told Sports Illustrated that the effect of the Sonics relocating would be, "On an economic basis, near zero. On a cultural basis, close to zero. We would still have two sports, and plenty of cities our size don't have three."

Schultz quickly summoned reporters to issue a legislative ultimatum. His comments, published the next day in local newspapers included:

Seattle Times: "I read that [SI story] and said, 'Who is this guy representing?' And he also made the comment that the Sonics and Storm did not contribute anything in terms of economic value to the city. We're aghast at that. We have our own economic study that strongly suggests we generate over $200 million a year in economic real value to this region."

"We've asked [Sonics president] Wally Walker to begin to seek other alternatives in view of the fact that it appears that March 9 is going to come and go and we're not going to get what we've asked for. It's a tragic situation. I don't think we've ever thought we'd be here."

"We're on a collision course with time and we can't wait. If people want to make me the villain, that's their prerogative, but I'm here to tell you that we've tried for almost two years to meet the elected officials halfway and we're not getting anything back."

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "With less than a month to go, it's very clear to us that the city and state officials are not showing us the kind of respect we feel we deserve."

"And what are we asking for? The same kind of deal that the Seahawks and Mariners have received. It's ironic with the Seahawks going to the Super Bowl and the community, the state, so galvanized by a sports team, that here we are in a position that's so unfortunate."

The (Tacoma) News Tribune: "That [Licata's comment] is irresponsible, it is arrogant and completely unacceptable. There is not a lot to be optimistic about when you read that the head of the council made the comments that he made." (Schultz acknowledged that the franchise walked into the money-losing KeyArena lease with eyes wide open but thought the franchise could negotiate a new agreement.) "We purposefully created an investor group that had its own constituency and its own links to elected officials so that we would be in a position to reach out in a very respectful fashion. It is beyond comprehension that they are saying no. We have to either seek another buyer or move the team. Staying is not an option for this group."

Associated Press:State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane: "We're always open to talking to organizations like the Sonics about their needs. But the Legislature doesn't appreciate ultimatums." Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup: "That's going to be a tough decision for [Schultz] to make because he's leaving a fan base that's been very supportive of the Sonics in the past. If it comes down to this is the only way he'll stay then I'm afraid he'll have to go."


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