When it comes to the less palatable elements of American sport, the fact that teams are franchises and can be moved around if they are not performing is one of the poorest elements. Clearly this is an indicator of the importance of commercialism in American sports but if you have supported a team for as long as you can remember, the thought of having that team wrenched out of your city and away from you can be a distressing one. It isn’t really a case in mainland Europe where sporting teams are viewed as being part of the fabric of local culture but it is certainly something that NBA fans know all about.
The topic is once again on the agenda with the Atlanta Hawks being discussed. The mayor of the city, Kasim Reed, has come out swinging, briefing the press about the future of the team. At the Friday press conference, Reed came out with two major points.
The NBA want the Hawks to stay in Atlanta
The first point was that he claims the Commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, is fully supportive of ensuring the Hawks stay in Atlanta, and this is the case no matter who is in control of the team. The second point is that Bruce Levenson, who is currently the person in control of the majority of shares, 50.1%, needs to take control of the sales process. The Mayor believes that Atlanta residents are beginning to lose a bit of patience and that Levenson needs to work harder or more productively with respect to moving the ownership of the club.
The Mayor held a special press conference about the future of the Hawks because he felt it was best to share information he had gleaned from a meeting with Silver and top NBA executives. This meet was held in New York the previous week and Reed believes that the powers of the NBA are fully committed to ensuring the Hawks remain where they are. Reed said;
The NBA is absolutely committed to the city of Atlanta. That really has been the threshold question given the way these events have unfolded.
Reed says it would be a sick tragedy if Atlanta lost the Hawks
The Mayor used some strong language at the press conference, going so far to say that Atlanta losing the Hawks, due to the email comments made by Levenson, would be akin to a “sick tragedy”. This outcome would ensure that Levenson was financially better off while Atlanta, who has showed a level of dignity during the whole episode, would be a major loser. This is the pay-off that the Mayor is determined will not occur and he is placing pressure on Levenson to take more action. The Mayor also said;
There is some increasing urgency on when we will move forward with a new owner of the team. I don’t know how long everyone is going to be so gracious.
The Mayor has also said that he has received a great deal of interest for potential buyers and people who hold an interest in what is on offer. Reed claims that he has received interest in people looking to buy out the share of the team Levenson owns and that there has been interest in the entire team. Reed has claimed to have provided all of the information to the NBA and has stated that there has been interest from within Atlanta and from outside the USA.
No matter what happens from here, it is clear that the city is keen to play an active role in the sale of the Hawks shares, and you can bet that this will not be the last time that Mayor Reed is brought to the attention of basketball fans.