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Seattle vs. the Sonics

2008 June 17
by Skip Sauer

The lawsuit brought by the city of Seattle against the Sonics began yesterday. The city is seeking to force the Sonics to play at KeyArena through the remaining two years of the contract. The Sonics want to merely pay the required rent, and get out of town to new and better digs. Three main issues in the case are (1) the ability of the city to demand “specific performance” rather than the monetary payment alone; (2) whether through KeyArena the city would provide an economically viable venue during the next two years, as required by the contract; and (3) whether both parties acted in good faith when negotiating over a new Seattle-based home for the Sonics, a negotiation that was ultimately abandoned when the Sonics decided to move to Oklahoma City.

Coverage from the Seattle Times on yesterday’s hearing is here, and there is good commentary on the issues at the Sports Law Blog. The weakest part of Seattle’s case rests on the economic impact of the Sonics leaving town. I expect our man Humphreys to carry the day on that point. But intangible values loom large, and I give the city a decent shot on points two and three above, as a means of keeping the Sonics around (in a contractual sense, at least) for another two years. What ultimately happens if the city wins the case is anyone’s guess. Maybe they’ll get a nice pot of money in a settlement and bribe the Kings to come to the Emerald (nee Queen) City ;) There are no angels in The Stadium Game.

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