Fresh off of yet another tense negotiation session, Gavin, standing alongside his brothers Joe and George, and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, announced with great pride that it finally had happened. After more than a decade of posturing, failed ballot measures, name-calling, a near relocation and harsh back-and-forth between all parties involved, the two sides, the Sacramento Kings owners and the city, had come to an agreement on financing a new downtown arena.
The emotional Gavin finally let it all out. Through a lump in his throat, he said, “It’s been a long time. 13 years, as you know.” Gavin then broke down for a moment before continuing. “I think it’s great for our community. I’m glad that it’s finally coming to an end.”
Joe shook hands with Mayor Johnson and claimed, “We’ve always said we wanted to stay in Sacramento, and now here’s our opportunity.”
Even the reserved George took a turn, stating, “I think it is a fair deal…Sometimes you have to take chances, and this one is worth taking.”
Days later, Joe, Gavin and the mayor took the floor at Power Balance Pavilion, as fans rose to their feet to salute the efforts of all involved in bringing a shiny new arena to their town. “My Hero” by the Foo Fighters was drowned out by the cheers of Kings faithful. Gavin acknowledged the crowd, throwing up his hands triumphantly.
“There’s going to be a beacon of light shining bright in 2015. A brand new arena!”
Armed with the support of the Maloofs, an agreement on the arena financing and the backing of thousands of Kings fans, Mayor Johnson proposed the deal to Sacramento City Council. It was approved 7-2, and planning for the development of the new entertainment sports complex began.
Maloofs pull an about-face
But it appears the whole thing was yet another charade. Bravo, Maloofs, for a truly Oscar-worthy performance that fooled all of Kings nation.
Suddenly, on Friday the 13th no less, the Maloof brothers traipsed into a New York hotel and claimed they never agreed to the deal as constituted. Suddenly, the deal was “insulting.” After all, it was Gavin who made it known that it took 13 years to come to a resolution. He and his brothers killed the deal in less than 13 minutes.
Those tears of joy? Phony. The on-court celebrations? Fake. The handshakes and high-fives with the mayor? Choreographed. Watching the city embrace the family again? Pure enjoyment.
The Maloofs pulled a fast one on the city of Sacramento. From the outside, it may look like a case of cold feet. But dig a little deeper. The Maloofs do not have the financial means to run an NBA team. Period. The family has hidden that fact for years, but everyone around them knows it.
Even the NBA is keen to it. That’s why commissioner David Stern was willing to front nearly all of the money for the Maloofs’ portion of the new arena costs in the form of a loan. The Maloof family was expected to contribute roughly $74 million upfront to the project. Stern offered to loan the family $67 million from the NBA and cover the remaining $7 million.
That’s right. It appears the Maloofs had next to nothing in the form of upfront costs.
But the Maloofs couldn’t have that. This NBA aid was a big monkey-wrench in their own plan to back out of the deal. So they claimed the $3.2 million in pre-development fees, which the family agreed to in Orlando, was the source of their disapproval. Yes, a $391 million deal to bring a new arena for the team they owned was being sabotaged because they didn’t want to come up with $3.2 million.
And they want to say they don’t have financial trouble.
The Maloofs' cover-up continues
The rest of Friday’s claptrap spewed by the Maloofs is merely laughable to those in Sacramento. George had the audacity to bring in a financial advisor (allegedly from Anaheim) who claimed the deal was not sound…for the city of Sacramento. A veiled attempt to transfer blame elsewhere. Well played, George. Surely Sacramentans appreciate you looking out for their best interests.
Then George continued to put his foot in his mouth, stating, “Why don’t we look at redoing Power Balance (Pavilion)? It just seems more natural. It’s less money. There’s less pressure on everybody.”
Nary a soul should believe that the Maloof family is serious about refurbishing the 24-year-old former Arco Arena. For years, while fans unwilling to pay for a new arena stood by the old Arco, the Maloofs denounced the dilapidated building. It’s the reason the city worked so hard to get a new building in place, fearing the Maloofs would take the team elsewhere. Just last year in March, Mayor Johnson, with the aid of one of Arco Arena’s original architects, again proposed remodeling Power Balance Pavilion to make it suitable for the Kings.
The Maloofs’ response? “A renovation of the existing structure is not an adequate solution.” Ah, yes, another Friday the 13th lie from the Maloof family.
Deception could run deeper
The question becomes, how deep does the deceit go? Did it truly develop over the past six weeks? Or has this been the long-running plan for the Kings owners in order to skip town? When they announced plans last year to file relocation papers for Anaheim, they probably figured that was the end of it.
What they didn’t count on was the diligent work of Mayor Johnson. For the past year, Johnson has poured thousands of hours into the arena project. With the Kings fighting for their lives in Sacramento, the mayor was the defibrillator. Lining up local business partners. Taking red-eyes to New York to speak to the NBA governing body. Securing more than $250 million WITHOUT instituting a sales tax increase. It was truly a masterful performance by the mayor, and one that the Maloofs did not expect.
Now the Maloofs must move to plan B -- alienate a fan base and continuing spewing the lies that have gotten them to this point. A few more shouldn’t hurt. The Maloofs say they are still committed to Sacramento, but at this point, why on earth would the city work with them in good faith?
Kings fans left out in the cold
The true, obvious loser in all of this is the fan base in Sacramento. Long considered one of the most passionate groups in the NBA, Kings fans embrace their team as family. Before the Maloofs took over the team, the Kings were NBA bottom-feeders, frequently placing in the bottom third of the league. Yet through the trying times, the Sacramento fans managed to build two of the five longest sellout streaks in NBA history.
The fans deserve better than the Maloofs. But can they get it? Multiple interested parties, including billionaire Ron Burkle, have expressed interest in buying the team, but the Maloofs have remained steadfast in their desire to hold on to the franchise. From the NBA side, Stern has claimed there is nothing more he can do, and forcing the team to sell to more viable owners doesn’t seem to be an option at this point.
This leaves Sacramento in a crummy, helpless position. The fans want to support the team but have no trust for the Maloofs. The fans will fight tooth-and-nail to keep them in Sacramento but continue to pray for an ownership change.
The Kings will play in Sacramento next season. Beyond that, it is anyone’s guess.
Lousy, dishonest owners reneging on deals and insulting a passionate fan base.
The NBA…it’s fan-tastic.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons