Sonics Fans Battle Heartily to Stave Off NBA Relocation

Outraged Seattlites put up fuss to keep NBA team, but history not on their side.

ByABC News
February 12, 2009, 8:12 AM

June 20, 2008 -- Billionaire owner demands a new sports arena. City cannot immediately finance.

Billionaire owner moves team to another location. Fans never had a say.

The script for franchise relocations in professional sports is an all-too-familiar one, but the latest act involving the Seattle Supersonics and owner Clay Bennett is threatening to change the dynamics of the players on stage.

This time, Sonics basketball fans are determined to play a leading role.

"The fans cannot be ignored," said lifelong Sonics fan Michol Sala, 30. "It's easy for guys like Bennett to downplay it and say, 'let's just ignore the fans and walk away.' But that's where the fans are saying, 'no, you're not gonna just walk away, or if you do walk away, you're not gonna do it quietly.' We may lose the Sonics but we're going to make a helluva lot of noise doing it."

That noise came to a formal crescendo on Monday, when about 3,000 Sonics fans rallied outside the courthouse on the first day of Bennett's lease trial with the city to protest the Sonics' pending move to Oklahoma City.

Bolstered by the success of the rally, which featured fan advocates such as former Sonics greats Gary Payton and Xavier McDaniel, many supporters in Seattle believe that resistance to the move is so great that they may be able keep the Sonics in Seattle.

"We believe we can get this done; it's not out of the question," said Steve Pyeatt, co-founder of the "Save Our Sonics" organization that staged the courthouse rally. "[Monday's] rally was amazing, but it was only one thing.

"What our group has done over the last year is made it very clear with over 10,000 members that the people want the team to stay here," he said. "And when our group decided they wanted to go out and set an example in the arena and show that Seattle does and will support the team, we packed the house. We feel like we turned this thing around. Our goal is to keep Sonics basketball here for the next 40 years."

As much as Pyeatt and fellow Sonics fans might hope to influence the proceedings and keep the Sonics, the history of relocations in professional sports is not on their side.