Sonics Fans Battle Heartily to Stave Off NBA Relocation

"The Hornets were a playoff-caliber team, but the situation basically came down to an arena that the owner could build a franchise off of," White said. "When the owner tried to force the city's hand by threatening to move the team if the city didn't approve a new arena, the city just said, 'OK, move. We're not going to put money into it.' It was a business decision on all accounts."

Futile Resistance?

The kind of resistance by the Sonics' fans can be found in other relocations throughout sports history, but the end result is generally the same.

In perhaps the most infamous of all relocations in professional sports, the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984 despite enormous outrage and protest from Baltimore, which resisted stadium improvements.

Baltimore Sun editor Jon Morgan, who wrote the critically acclaimed book "Glory for Sale: Fans, Dollars, and the New NFL," was a sports reporter for the Sun at the time and remembers just how much the city fought against the Colts' departure, which occurred secretly, overnight because, as Morgan said, "They were literally afraid the state police were going to stop them and seize the team."

"The movement of the Colts was preceded by a long period of public courtship, so it was very public that the team was leaving Baltimore." Morgan said. "Predictably, that created a great deal of panic between fans, citizens and politicians, and there was a lot of gnashing of teeth on all accounts to try to keep the team [in Baltimore] and keep the team happy," Morgan said. "There was a sense of hurt and outrage, that the people in Baltimore believe that this was one of the greatest roots of the NFL. They felt a certain entitlement had been violated by the league."

Fans who have enjoyed the Sonics for the 41 years of the franchise in Seattle share a similar sentiment. But against the high-powered combination of owner Bennett and the NBA, the odds of the Sonics staying in Seattle, even amid the fiery resistance from fans and bare-knuckled litigation by the city, appear to be slim to none.

A Playbook Page from the NFL

Jim Giles, publisher of Dawgbones.com, the official fan-club site of the NFL's Cleveland Browns, believes the best recourse for Sonics fans might be to take a page out of the Cleveland Browns' playbook and secure everything but the team itself, as Cleveland fans did in 1996 when the original Browns relocated to Baltimore and became the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore had no such luck with the Colts, losing everything to Indianapolis.

"The city of Cleveland sued the NFL to try to bring an injunction to keep the team from moving, like Seattle is doing, but due to the anti-trust laws there was nothing that could be done," Giles said. "But what the fans did do is say, 'We want the Browns back. If the team goes, we're not going to let any of this history get away. We want this city to keep our name, colors, history, everything.' And they filed petitions and got it done. So when there was a chance to get an expansion team [in 1999], it was the Cleveland Browns that came back.

"The measures taken by those fans are the biggest reason the Browns are here and have a passionate following today," Giles said.

Whether the Sonics remain in Seattle is yet to be determined. Whether an NBA franchise would return to Seattle in later years is an even greater unknown.

History shows that fans have little say in the matter, but for now at least, Sonics fans are doing what they do best: making noise and keeping the faith.

"The fans are going to make a lot of noise and I do think they're going to make a difference," devoted fan Sala said.

"But," he added, "they don't have the solutions to build a new arena. They can't be the ones to fix the problem."

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