Kings Taking Their Talents to the OC? Bad Move
The word on the street is that the Sacramento Kings are seriously considering a move to Anaheim next season. If that’s the plan, they only have until March 1 to formally apply to the NBA for relocation. The League has been trying for the past several years to get a new arena built in Sacramento, but taxpayers have refused to help finance the project. Prior to the start of this season, the NBA announced that it was through helping Sacramento in its arena efforts.
Being a Cleveland fan myself (who, along with the rest of Ohio, STILL has not forgiven Art Modell), I like to see smaller markets succeed. And it really bothers me when teams with long-standing ties to a community up and leave for the bigger better deal. Now, the Kings franchise isn’t exactly comparable to the Cleveland Browns in terms of historical ties to the community: the Kings have bounced around the League from Rochester, to Cincinnati, to splitting time between Kansas City & Omaha, to just Kansas City, and finally to Sacramento. But they’ve been in Sacramento for the past 25 years. What about loyalty? What about doing what’s right for the community? None of that matters to franchise owners—all that matters to an owner these days is the bottom line, and that’s just sad. Why can’t the NBA keep the Kings in Sacramento, or at least prevent the Kings from moving to the already saturated LA market? We have crazy Al Davis to thank for that.
When the other owners in the NFL rejected Davis’ proposal to move his Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles, Davis sued the NFL. He alleged that the NFL rule requiring the approval of three-quarters of the owners before a team could be relocated to an area within 75 miles of another NFL franchise violated antitrust laws. In Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Com’n v. National Football League, 726 F.2d 1381 (9th Cir. 1984), the Ninth Circuit held that a reasonable jury could have found the three-quarters rule violated antitrust laws and affirmed the district court judgment enjoining the NFL from preventing the Raiders from relocating to Los Angeles. In a subsequent case involving the Clippers’ move from San Diego to Los Angeles, National Basketball Ass’n v. SDC Basketball Club, Inc., 815 F.2d 562 (9th Cir. 1987), the Ninth Circuit clarified that the Raiders case did not hold that a franchise relocation rule, in and of itself, violates antitrust laws; what the case did establish was that the “rule of reason” will be applied to franchise relocation rules. Major League Baseball is the only sport that enjoys exemption from the antitrust laws, see Flood v. Kuhn, 407 U.S. 258 (1972), so every other sport must be mindful of whether a relocation rule unreasonably restrains competition.
Ever since Davis won his lawsuit, and the right to move his team without interference from the League, we have lived in an era of “franchise free agency,” where the owners of struggling franchises seek out the best offers from other cities and threaten to leave if they don’t get what they want, usually a shiny new stadium. In the case of the Kings, the best offer appears to be coming from Henry Samueli, the billionaire owner of the Anaheim Ducks and operator of Anaheim’s Honda Center. But three teams in metro LA? That just doesn’t make sense. If the Kings are going to move anywhere it should be to a city that doesn’t already have two NBA teams within 30 miles. Everyone knows that the LA market belongs to the Lakers and Anaheim is just too close.
How about Kansas City? The Sprint Center is only three years old and it doesn’t have a team. The Kings would be returning home after a 25-year absence, a fitting ending that takes account of more than just the bottom line.