The Reality of Professional Sports
How many times do we need to be reminded? Sports is a business. It doesn’t matter how much you love or support your team. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a season ticket holder for 20 years. None of the emotional sentiments that sports leagues sell us on matters. In the end, it is a business. Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver has just shown us the latest example of this fact. The fans of the Phoenix Suns, are now learning this harsh lesson. And we’ve seen this so many times before, it’s a wonder that everyone doesn’t understand it yet.
Early Wednesday afternoon, a report came out of Phoenix, Arizona that sounded all too familiar. Reportedly, Suns owner Robert Sarver has threatened to move the Suns franchise to Las Vegas or Seattle if funding cannot be secured for a proposed $230 million arena renovation for Talking Stick Resort Arena. What’s this? A billionaire owner of a sports team threatening to relocate his franchise if his demands aren’t met? Surely this has never happened before. Oh wait, it has happened over and over again in the history of sports. Using the threat of relocation as leverage is a time-honored tradition of every sports league. Sometimes it works out and the city ultimately gives in to the demands of the of the billionaire team owner. Sometimes the owner gets a sweet deal and decides to sell. In the MLS, Jimmy Haslam (owner of the Cleveland Browns) stepped in at the last second to save the Columbus Crew from moving to Austin, Texas. Now the former owner of the Crew will be granted an expansion team in Austin instead of having to move the Crew there. The final option if demands aren’t met is relocation. The billionaire owner will go to the league and claim they’ve done everything to make it work in their current market. And in the end, the league will acquiesce. The team will relocate to another city willing to cough up the dough on a new stadium project.
This has happened far too many times, and fans should be wary when team facilities start to age. Yes, the local sports organization will promote the idea that you are part of the family. They will tell you how your support is appreciated and how they do this for you. But the moment they go to your local government and get a no response, all of that goes out the window. And it doesn’t matter how long your team has been in your market. All that matters is money. Seattle had the Supersonics for just over 40-years, and their owners and the NBA cast them aside for Oklahoma City. In the NFL, the city of San Diego supported the Chargers for over 50 years. But when their owner couldn’t secure the funding he wanted, he took the team to their rival city Los Angeles. And there are plenty of other teams that have done the same. They will cast aside their fans for luxury seats. They will trade your loyalty for the money, and they won’t think twice about this.
I feel for any fan that has had to go through this process, but it’s time to learn the reality of professional sports. When you see the team name Phoenix Suns, please know that sports aren’t about Phoenix. It’s not about the fans that live there, the joy the team brings to the city, or the misery the team brings to the city. All of that is nice, but it can all go away in an instant. No, sports is about the team name that comes after the city. So in this case, it’s about the Suns. It’s about the owner of the organization maximizing their profits. it’s about luxury seats being sold to the high paying customers or corporate partners. It’s about the bottom line. And unfortunately, there are times where the fans don’t matter in the grand scheme. So if you have a local professional sports team that you’re fond of, always understand that it’s a business first. You can continue to support your team, but don’t be upset when they decide to pack their bags for greener pastures. It’s just the price of doing business.