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The crew of Sonicsgate routinely shows up at NBA events in an effort to keep the Sonics memory alive, but also to spread a message. Sure, the ultimate goal is to bring a team back to Seattle, but Sonicsgate is also a blueprint for others, showing them just how quickly a team can be snatched away and how to fight it. While Seattle fans want a team, the process by which one is brought back to the city may lead to accusations of hypocrisy.
Is Sonicsgate all just a front to undermine teams facing relocation? Is the crew showing up not to support other teams fighting back against the NBA, but to lure those teams to Seattle? Not quite. In fact, the support is real and Seattle fans are sympathetic to the causes of others.
"No team is safe. That's why we keep showing up. It's a reminder no team if safe. If you have a team as successful as the Sonics move, it can happen to anyone," Sonicsgate producer Jason Reid said when asked about the climate in the NBA. "Sacramento fans never thought it was possible. It's conflicting, but were here to help our fellow sports fans. The NBA pits fans against each other. You're not going to pit us against Sacramento"
But Reid was realistic when asked about how Seattle would go about securing another NBA team. The league doesn't plan to expand, leaving only one option on the table: Relocation.
"As much as we want to get an NBA team in the city, we know for a fact if we get a team it'll be another city," he said. "The NBA won't expand. We know, and we're realistic about the situation."
The way the Sonics were handled left a bad taste in the collective mouth of the Seattle sports fan, and it's something Sonicsgate is hoping to avoid while fighting to bring the NBA back. I've struggled with this issue before and Reid does, as well, but he also preaches transparency. If a local buyer rescues an NBA team in trouble, being clear about their intentions along the way would be key.
"It's a conflicting issue. That's why we ended Sonicsgate with Sherman Alexi saying to get a team we're going to have to steal a team," Reid said before turning his attention to the process. "The transparency is critical. If [Steve] Ballmer buys a team, it'll be transparent. It would be we're buying the team and moving them to Seattle."
A plan to bring the Sonics back to Seattle won't get out of the starting gate without an arena. It's well-known the NBA uses arenas as part of its business model, and the facility that houses the team must be a sustainable source of income. For Seattle, it's an "if you build it, they will come" manta.
"It comes down to the arena. Everything comes down to the arena. WIthout an arena, Seattle won't get a team," Reid said before looking to the future. "I think [Steve] Ballmer is just sitting back waiting for someone comes up with a plan."
And the fight won't end until a team is back in Seattle, no matter how long it takes.
"The popular perspective is "give it up. It's been three years." We will not go away and stop showing up until the wrongs have been righted by giving us a team back. We're going to be the misquoto in your ear."
When Seattle fans see the Oklahoma City Thunder claim history that belongs with the Sonics, it immediately touches a nerve. Such was the case last week ahead of the NBA playoff matchup between the Thunder and Denver Nuggets. On the NBA pregame show, a graphic flashed with the Thunder’s historical playoff record at home against the Nuggets.
The record was 7-2 and encompassed the Sonics’ statistics. But instead of letting it pass, Charles Barkley stood up for Seattle and slammed the shared history, endearing him to Northwest sports fans immediately. The issue keeps coming up — Kendrick Perkins was unable to use the jersey number because it was retired in Seattle in honor of Jack Sikma, as well.
So why the shared history, then? Seattle fans have no place to house it, but would like to keep the Sonics alive and keep the memories of the past living on. And, according to Sonicsgate’s Jason Reid, Oklahoma City fans feel the same way.
“The other thing we’ve heard from OKC fans — they don’t want our history. They don’t care about the ]1979 NBA Championship] trophy or the history,” he said before explaining why the Thunder share their history. “Clay Bennett signed a deal sharing the history. Really what they should do is say Oklahoma City started when they moved and they should leave the records and history alone.”
It’s a debate that rages on, but if Seattle fans want the history back and Oklahoma City fans don’t want the Sonics’ history and tradition, why can’t there be an easy solution? The Thunder should blaze their own trail, and are doing a fine job of it right now. Yet because of the deal made when the Sonics left Seattle, the Thunder will continue to share the records, statistics and many of the traditions that made the Sonics who they were.
The NBA, like the NFL, operates under a shroud of secrecy when it comes to financial records. Teams protect their books and the detailed financial records that would facilitate any meaningful analysis. It allows the owners to plead poverty and hammer the rising salaries of players despite a lack of substance backing up the claims. But with an NBA lockout looming, something has to give.
We spoke with Jason Reid, one of the Sonicsgate producers, after his trip to Denver for the NBA playoff matchup between the Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder. In addition to his thoughts about the trip, we discussed the business model of the NBA and the looming lockout. He offered some insight, gleaned from his work on Sonicsgate and his research into the Seattle arena situation.
“With the business model, it changes so much because it’s not working. With a lockout looming, it’s going to either be players salaries get cut or the players get together and get the NBA to open their books to show the NBA isn’t losing as much as it is on paper,” Reid said. “If it gets to lockout levels, players may see why NBA can’t make money off these sold out arenas”
Seattle tried, unsuccessfully, to view the financial records as Clay Bennett and the Sonics were about to leave town. But as they found out, getting access to the financial records of the NBA is a tremendous fight and may be nearly impossible. Without the records, we’re left to form conclusions from the data available, which still doesn’t back up the league’s claims of poverty.
“In the court case with the Sonics, they tried to open up more of the NBAs books, but they ultimately weren’t successful. It could’ve, potentially, exposed how they’re calculating these figures,” Reid said before turning to Howard Schultz as a specific example. “Schultz bought the team for 200, sold it for 350. Over five years, he made 150 million. These guys aren’t really losing as much money as it seems.”
Reid delved into the business model, which he says is broken, and the use of public funding for arenas as a revenue stream in the NBA during the making of Sonicsgate. It’s an issue at play in nearly every small market — including Sacramento and New Orleans, cities that are each facing uncertain futures.
“The NBA will try to get the players have more of a cap on their salaries. The impeding lockout is interesting because the business model is so broken. In the movie, we get into the broken business model. It relies almost solely on public funding,” Reid said while speaking to the broader issues at play in the NBA. “If the arena is not publicly funded, teams aren’t making money.”
With a labor struggle hanging in the balance, the dreaded c-word, contraction, keeps coming up as a thinly veiled threat. Is it a realistic option or a bargaining chip? Without clear financial records, we’re left to wonder as the NBA clings to public funding and pushes for newer, bigger arenas funding by the public under the threat of relocation or contraction.
The NBA playoffs seem to touch a nerve in Seattle every year. It’s the playoffs, more than anything else, that reminds fans of the Sonics and Seattle sports fans about the missing piece of the puzzle. You can see Seattle fans take to social media and spread their passion throughout the playoffs as the fire is reignited once again.
For Jason Reid and the group of Sonics fans who made the trip to Denver, the playoffs are a reminder of the past and serve as motivation for the future.
“There’s something about playoff time. I’m still a huge NBA fan, we’re pretty hard hoops fans. The feeling in playoff time, that intensity of being there with everything on the line, I totally miss that,” Reid said. “Part of what’s going on — with Sonics fans being so irate — we have this team doing so well built on the backs of our losing seasons. It’s just painful to people here.”
The NBA playoffs come at a dead time in sports. Major League Baseball is just barely getting out of the gates, college sports are over and the NFL offseason is in full-swing — or in a lockout. Seattle fans are hungry for meaningful sports. And seeing the former Sonics as playoff favorites and in the midst of what appears to be a deep run fuels that hunger even more.
“The Mariners are terrible, the Seahawks aren’t playing, we don’t have anything big to root for,” Reid said while discussing the sports climate in Seattle. “Especially given the history. Imagine being up 3-0 against the Nuggets with a team in Seattle. That’s gonna piss you off and mobilize you to do something. All we can do is keep the heat on and keep the publicity up.”
And the trip to Denver reignited the fire for Reid and the rest of the group. First and foremost, Sonicsgate wants a team back in Seattle. But the group is made up of basketball fans who love the game and have a passion for basketball. But without a team, the empty feeling still exists.
“It felt good to be passionate about a basketball game again,” Reid said. “We used to get to root for our team, but now we’re rooting for the game.”
We’ll be back throughout the day with more from Reid. We discussed his feelings about the Thunder, how players felt about those crazy, green and gold wearing fans and what message the group is trying to get across. Stay with this StoryStream for more of the interview and head over to the Sonicsgate website to watch the documentary for free
It comes with the territory, but Sonicsgate receives plenty of hate for their message. Whether it’s Oklahoma City Thunder fans upset by Seattle fans rooting against their team or feel their city is being unfairly attacked, Sonicsgate takes plenty of heat. But it’s not about the fans, nor do the producers from Sonicsgate fault the fans. It’s all about awareness and spreading the message about what happened in Seattle.
“We’ve definitely received a fair amount of hate. I think they feel kind of attacked by us,” Jason Reid said. “We’re not there to attack them. We’ve there to create awareness. It has nothing to do with OKC fans. We’ve never attacked OKC fans in any interviews and press.”
But Reid and the rest of the gang have a hard time balancing rooting against Clay Bennett and the Thunder and rooting for some of their favorite players. Kevin Durant was drafted by Seattle and has been a favorite of Reid, along with Nate Robinson, a Seattle native whose trade to Oklahoma City left many in the Northwest reeling. In the end, the hard feelings left behind by Bennett win out, though it's confusing in some ways.
"People assumed we're there to root for OKC because they were us. We really don't want them to succeed because it was owned by Clay Bennett," Reid said before elaborating on the quandary. "We can cheer for Nate Robinson. We can cheer for [Nick] Collison. We can cheer for Kevin Durant. It doesn't mean we're going to root for their team. We were there and we were rooting for Denver. I think the players understand that."
It’s become a rivalry, of sorts, even though Seattle doesn’t have an NBA team. It’s not your typical rivalry, but Seattle fans are rooting against the Thunder and the success of their former franchise. And if Seattle gets a team, a pre-made rivalry is already in place to go along with the historical rivalries the Sonics had.
“We root against their teams, like Boston and NY fans hate each other. Rival cities don’t like each others. People in Seattle are pretty clearly rooting against the success of their former franchise.”
And what if Seattle is given another NBA team? Seattle fans will be in the same position as Oklahoma City fans are now, a fact not lost on Reid or the Sonicsgate producers.
“We’ve always said we don’t fault them for rooting for the team,” Reid said while discussing Oklahoma City fans. “We’re happy they have a team and can root for them and are successful. If we have a team taken from another city, you better bet we’re going to root for them.”
As the hate keeps coming, Reid and the Sonicsgate crew keeps pushing forward. The movement and public appearances will continue until the goal is reached and an NBA team is back in Seattle. But it’s become a fan-rivalry as Oklahoma City fans and Seattle fans battle it out in the stands with some good-natured — albeit heated, at times — ribbing.
“We ran into quite a few OKC fans. Adam [Brown] was sitting next to two OKC fans. We boo each other. It’s fans against fans. They knew we were there to not support their team,” Reid said when talking about the trip to Denver. "The popular perspective is “give it up. It’s been three years.” We will not go away and stop showing up until the wrongs have been righted by giving us a team back."
We’ll be back throughout the day with more from Reid. We discussed his feeling about the Thunder, how players felt about those crazy, green and gold wearing fans and what message the group is trying to get across. Stay with this StoryStream for more of the interview and head over to the Sonicsgate website to watch the documentary for free
When Sonicsgate traveled to Denver for Saturday’s NBA playoff matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets, they brought along a surprise for Sacramento Kings fans. The city of Sacramento is currently fighting relocation itself, going through the same process we went through in Seattle just three years ago. As a show of support, Jason Reid brought along a cowbell, which could be heard loud and clear during the ESPN broadcast on Saturday night.
It was a symbolic gesture, but one that meant a lot to Sacramento fans. In the past week, I’ve seen an outpouring of support from fans in Sacramento who appreciated the gesture from Sonics fans, who know full-well what it’s like to fight the battle. In an interview with Reid, we discussed the cowbell and the parallels between the Seattle Sonics and Sacramento Kings.
“The cowbell thing was just something me and Camp Jones had talked about in the days leading up. How cool would it be to have a cowbell to support them?” Reid said. “The relevancy with their issue and ours is close and we feel bonded with their fans. A little thing we could do was bring a cowbell to show support. The fact Clay Bennett was in the same section as us made it even better. It’s just shout-out to Sacramento.”
Sacramento is just now getting to a do-or-die point. Mayor Kevin Johnson’s hail mary bought the city some time, but in the next year, the city must have an arena deal in place to keep the team. Reid sympathizes with the fight, but also had some advice for the citizens of Sacramento.
“I think Sacramento just now realized they could lose their team. Once you’re face with potentially losing you’re team, you have to formulate these protests. If we can help people, watch Sonicsgate,” Reid said. “There’s two hours of information. It gives you a ton of ammo if you’re trying to save your team. We knew if it was free online the other cities can see how it’s done.”
So did the cowbell work? With Clay Bennett sitting just a few rows behind him, Reid hopes he heard the noise and saw the support.
“Them hearing that cowbell, maybe that will help Sacramento,” Reid said while looking back on the event. “Maybe Clay heard that cowbell and it made him think a little bit.”
We’ll be back throughout the day with more from Reid. We discussed his feeling about the Thunder, how players felt about those crazy, green and gold wearing fans and what message the group is trying to get across. Stay with this StoryStream for more of the interview and head over to the Sonicsgate website to watch the documentary for free.
On Saturday, Seattle Sonics fans invaded Denver for Game 3 of the NBA playoff series between the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder. If you watched the ESPN broadcast, you saw Jason Reid and others in a highly-visible spot through the game: In the first row, right behind the Thunder bench. After a whirlwind trip, Reid gave SB Nation Seattle an hour of his time to discuss a variety of topics, from the trip to the NBA business model.
If you missed Reid and the Sonics fans, here's a quick look at him on the ESPN broadcast (via Instant Replay)
People keep asking why Sonicsgate continues to fight, three years after the Sonics shipped off to Denver. Is it jealousy,
"I remember, it was the Lakers in the playoffs, in the finals -- we were going to court everyday. One guy showed up in 94 kemp jersey and sat courtside every day. It fired me up," Reid said, taking a trip down memory lane. "We always wanted the national media to recognize what happen here and get the story told. To sort of take it to the next level, it makes the issue unavoidable. We want discussion in the open about what happened here and want the NBA back in Seattle."
The trip capped a wild few weeks, beginning with the Howard Schultz video. Sonicsgate producer Adam Brown just happened to be in the right place at the right time as he attempted to film footage for an upcoming project with Blue Scholars. The firestorm the video set off created a perfect storm as Sonicsgate found itself in headlines again, allowing the group to spread their message and remind the NBA fans are still without a team up in Seattle.
After throwing out the idea of raising money for a trip to Denver, fans responded, donating just about $3,000 to send Sonicsgate to Denver. It capped a crazy week for Sonicsgate, and put them back in the national spotlight.
"I think it's the perfect capper on the last couple weeks. A lot of times they don't allow us to use the flag. Security made us stop cowbelling, but the flag is so big and green and gold. You can't ignore it," Reid said. "If all we did is trigger some memory for them in millions of people, mission accomplished. We're here to never forget what happened and to remind people we're still up in Seattle without a basketball team."
We'll be back throughout the day with more from Reid. We discussed his feeling about the Thunder, how players felt about those crazy, green and gold wearing fans and what message the group is trying to get across. Stay with this StoryStream for more of the interview and head over to the Sonicsgate website to watch the documentary for free.
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