A Game For Us – Business For Them

Bay Area basketball fans have enjoyed a season of incredible ball playing. With the Warriors in the NBA playoffs thousands more have been drawn to watch. The skills and teamwork has made this a memorable playoff. Stephen Curry is a household name for those who rarely follow the game. The media has been full of stories surrounding every aspect of the playoffs. They even managed to generate a controversy when Curry brought his daughter, Riley, to a press conference.

This is a game many of us have played. And watching accomplished athletes with the skills that are being displayed is astounding and a pleasure to experieince. This is not news to the loyal fans who have been connected to these teams for decades, going to games or watching them on tv.

Fans are a part of every team. For the players the fans are an essential part of the game. And the fan support for both the Cavaliers and Warriors has been huge. They are now joined by thousands more who are using the games as a way to get together to enjoy each other in this collective experience.

Then there is the game behind the game – the big money game. The gear. The fantastic price of tickets – some seats now selling for more than some workers take home in a year. And that is the small money involved. The television rights, advertising and team valuation is the real game.

It is no surprise to anyone that there is big money in professional sports. LeBron James has a salary and contracts that total more than $60 million a year. That is the highest in the league. That’s an insane amount. But James, like Curry and Klay Thompson and the other players are the ones pounding the courts. It is their skills and hard work, along with the coaching staff that make the team.

For the owners this is another investment – one that gives them excitement, prestige and puts them in the spotlight when the game really gets going. Warriors owners Joe Lacob (former co-owner of the Celtics) and Peter Gruber (also co-owner of the Dodgers) paid $450 million for the Warriors in 2010. Now the team is valued at $1.3 billion. They knew the Bay Area’s support for teams and hired the right people to turn the team around. And now they claim the right to move the team to San Francisco and build a smaller and plusher stadium.

This is not an uncommon move – team owners build up a team using tax payer money for the stadiums, rely on the public infrastructure – trains, buses and freeways – to get fans to the game. Then, they either demand more money for a new stadium or work out a deal with the politicians in another city to bring the team there. We have seen this game play out across the country – from Glendale, Az. to Detroit, Baltimore and many more cities. Oakland is still paying off the $100 million used to refurbish the stadium for the Raiders and now the Raiders aren’t paying the rent ($400,000 a year). And the politicians are pleading for them not to leave. They are ready to use our money to build a huge, $100 million bayside development around a new stadium, but not a new stadium – at least not yet.

So, again another city is being deserted, this time it’s Oakland. But it’s not San Francisco vs. Oakland – it’s the 1% with huge fortunes to spend vs. the 99% (us). They move teams around like pieces on a chessboard just like they move jobs around the world resulting in huge layoffs. They speculate in real estate, making housing unaffordable, pushing people from their homes. It’s us vs. a system that has no real regard for us, other than as a means to generate ever-increasing amounts of wealth for them. It’s time we decide that it’s game over for the 1% and time for us, the 99%, to take over.