By |2020-04-02T16:57:38-07:00August 19th, 2013|Tags: , , |7 Comments

These are confusing, conflicting, and concerning times for Seattle sports fans and politicians.

The news that Seattle basketball savior Chris Hansen secretly donated $100,000 to a Sacramento group which opposed building an arena to keep the Kings in California seems to fall somewhere between troubling and deal breaking for most observers.

This is, without question, a big mistake on Hansen’s part. He knows it and I believe he’s truly regretful that he did it. At issue isn’t so much the contribution. Hansen lives in California and like anyone he’s free to interject his money and his opinion into politics. The bigger gaffe here was trying to keep the donation secret and not acknowledging it once people started snooping around trying to figure where they money came from.

To a certain extent it was unavoidable. Whenever you interject yourself at any level into the pursuit of a sports franchise you plan to move you have jumped into a very dirty sandbox. It’s impossible to stay clean and while some Seattle fans will delude themselves into thinking Hansen and Seattle are somehow more “honorable” in the pursuit of the Kings than the OKC crew was in pursuit of the Sonics the stories are rooted in the exact same place.

One guy bashed me on Twitter Saturday for comparing the two by informing me that “anyone dealing in reality” can tell that what Clay Bennett did was a “million times worse” than what Hansen did.

I’m not sure Sacramento NBA fans feel that way. They’re based in reality and to them Hansen looks very much like Bennett looked to us: an out of town guy trying to take away their NBA team. We can argue the methods but in the end the goal of both guys was the same. I’m not bashing Hansen and I certainly don’t mean to defend Bennett, but the whole concept of franchise removal looks very different depending on your perspective.

In Bennett’s case Seattle fans loathe him for lying to us about his intentions (which he did). But a certain amount of that anger is manufactured because if you’re honest with yourself and you’re dealing in the real world and not the world of Tooth Fairies, Easter Bunnies, and Santa Claus you knew Bennett was NEVER interested in staying in Seattle. The Sonics were as good as gone the second he and The Big Barista shook hands on their deal. Did that give him the right to lie to us? No. But business at this level is seldom as clean and fair as we’d like it to be. To believe otherwise is to fall back into Fantasyland.

That gets me to the bigger point of today’s missive which is the unending series of laughter inducing comments from politicians regarding Hansen’s misstep in Sacramento. The number of elected Seattle officials who expressed surprise and professed offense at the idea that big business tries to influence politics calls to mind a great scene from a great movie

Sorry to inform the Seattle political power base that this is how your business operates. Influence is bought and sold daily (hourly?) at the current market price. Hansen shouldn’t have done what he did but the idea that any of you are surprised by this turn of events makes me shudder at your naivety.

Speaking of naïve thoughts, anyone who thinks this will prevent the NBA from eventually striking a deal with Hansen of some sort for a team to come to Seattle is akin to (quoting the Statler Brothers here) “playing solitaire til dawn, with a deck of 51.”

When the day comes that a team is available and the league is sitting at a table with Hansen, a new arena deal, the 13th largest market, and a stack of $600 million dollars, do you really think someone is going to say “Hey, fellas, I’m a little leery of this guy. He once gave $100,000 to a campaign against an arena”?

And shame on us and our leaders if we allow this admitted mistake to scuttle this deal. If we do we’ll be acknowledging that we’re the backwoods rubes Clay Bennett took us for when he got here to do “business in the Pacific Rim” all those years ago.

One final point…Hansen and his group need to be realistic. There is no way to stay completely clean in any deal that involves a team leaving a city to come to Seattle. I don’t mind getting dirty because that’s how the game is and always has been played. But if anyone involved in the project is really concerned about not being viewed in the light of someone trying to take a team from another city…a team that is loved and cheered for by its hardcore fans just as passionately as we cheered the Sonics…then there is only one solution.

Wait for an expansion team. Otherwise…buy clothes that can be easily laundered. Because as our man Robert Cray reminds us… “we’re gonna come up muddy, muddy, muddy, when we’re playin’ in the dirt.”

About the Author:

Mike Gastineau has been a fixture in the Seattle sports community since his arrival in June of 1991. In a business where loyalty and longevity are rarely used in the same sentence his 21-year career at KJR Radio screams out both. During his time at KJR Gas created the KJR Kares-a-thon, a yearly charity radio show that raised over $1.5 million for various Puget Sound-area charities.


  1. Frank LaMee August 19, 2013 at 9:58 am

    There used to not be a 1, but, in the words of Mr.Chow, “Now they make you use a nuuumba”. Very well put Gas. I have followed all of this from afar. I was dumb, or smart, enough to allow my company to move me to Evansville, IN. Business is business. I think Chris Hansen was put on such a high pedistal by die hard Sonics fans, he could do no wrong. Sacramento were the bad guys. How dare they have our team playing their? How dare they fight and fight to keep THEIR team. How dare they…. Chris was doing everything he could to get the team to move. I am sure he saw the momentum shifting in their favor when he did what he did. This is a guy who would DO ANYTHING, to get a team back to the Seattle fans. Anything. From a purely business standpoint, I think, in the long run, this could actually help our cause. Why would the NBA not want a guy who is so passionate to get a team to Seattle, he would do anything to get the job done. Up to, and including, doing what he did. It makes little to no BUSINESS sense to not have a team in Seattle. I think the answer is expansion, and I think it will happen in the next two years. Let’s hope that the city of Seattle, and King County, are as passionate as Chris Hansen. Let’s hope, they are willing to do whatever it takes. Whatever it takes, to do what is right for the fans of the Sonics, and the people of Seattle. There is no downside, from a purely business perspective.

  2. Mike Barer August 20, 2013 at 8:02 am

    The Seattle Times hated this deal from day one, so there are not going to give Hansen any benefit of the doubt.

  3. Todd Smith August 20, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Hmmmmm, I’m a bit puzzled by all the uproar that Chris Hansen’s donation has caused. The overwhelming sentiment was that we wanted him to do ANYTHING necessary to bring the Sonics back to Seattle. Now that we see that Hansen IS willing to do ANYTHING, we are somehow offended? Come on people! This is big boy business. It’s time to put on our big boy pants and realize that if we truly want the SODO arena, the NBA, and the NHL (my favorite!), this is just a part of doing business in the REAL world. I’m not offended. Chris Hansen owed me no apology. Please stop allowing issues like this to distract the process. Do not fuel the fires for detractors!

  4. Paul Beattie August 20, 2013 at 8:35 am

    I guess I am not as connected to all this, first I did not view Sonic fans as believing Kings fans and the Kings were evil and in fact quite the opposite where many were on the fence about bringing in a team. There is no doubt the Mr Stern and Bennett should not go shopping in Downtown Seattle with out security anytime soon as they are the ones who are hated.

    I do think the comparison of Hansen who contributed in the world of billionaires 100K in which only 80 of it got to the campaign is akin to me donating 50-bucks to my favorite politician. If an 80k donation could derail the Kings in Sac town then the support for them there is HIGHLY questionable.

    He did apologize for the mistake and I agree it was a mistake because of just this the total over reaction to a very minor offense, afterall its not as if this is a scorched earth plan, he made the donation at a time of high emotion to a group who came to him and he bit.

    The observation of calling this troubling to a deal breaker to most observers I think is a reach too, but again maybe not because it simply is not to me. I am hoping those who feel it is a deal breaker did not suffer black eyes from such a knee jerk reaction to again a very minor mistake. I guess where Hansen blew it most was he has been so transparent in this process that any misstep is now magnified far more than it should be.

    I can’t imagine this incident having any impact at all on a team coming to Seattle, unless and only this if the Kings deal falls apart which it still could, I wouldn’t then be surprised to see the team go back to KC, which off course is where they were prior to Sac anyway. But as Gas laid out stack up 600 million 1-dollar bills, increase the value of EVERY NBA team, get back in a larger market I just can’t see the owners wasting the opportunity Hansen and company have laid on the table.

  5. Brett August 20, 2013 at 9:20 am

    I have no problem with what Hanson did. In business you have to play several angles and thats just what he did. The Seattle times will write anything to sell papers so drama is what they want. I will be reading the Tribune from now on ……

  6. Jerry Garcia August 20, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Thanks for the dose of reality. The problem is the so-called “leaders” in this city are a bunch of whiny left wingers who are not exactly sure if they like capitalism or not (but they sure love other people’s money). God forbid that a savvy businessman would want to improve his chances at getting a team here by knocking a plan to keep the team in Sacto. Yes, the “secret” part was not real smart. Rich guys and profitable companies need to stop apologizing for being successful, esp in these liberal bastions of creeping socialism.

    The one diff I see between the Sac and Seattle situations is that Seattle never had an issue about supporting the team. Bennet used the Key Arena thing as his excuse and we all knew that Key’s original upgrade was purely stopgap. Then the NBA bent over and let him take the team away. It appears that the NBA has discriminated against Hansen and his plan quite a bit compared to how Bennet was treated. I’m sure when Olympia told Stern to pound sand that sealed it for the Sonics.

  7. Kurt VonNibblingham August 20, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    I think it’s a sad day, Gas, when we have to stoop to back-room deals and deceitful practices to get a ball team back to the region. Is this what we really want? Is this all worth it? Where will it end? I don’t think a man of your stature should embrace or condone this type of activity – even if in a slightly ‘tongue-in-cheek’ manner – in our society and certainly not here in Seattle. I think that it is really above you to take such a tact in doing such.

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