The Toys of the Rich

In the sports world it seems like fans are losing their teams. The Golden State Warriors are moving to San Francisco, the 49ers to Santa Clara, and the Sacramento Kings may be moving to Seattle. And of course the Oakland A’s are always threatening to move to San Jose. If you’re starting to feel like these teams don’t really belong to us, it’s because they don’t.

The sports teams that we love are owned by people with a lot of money. Team franchises, players and sports in general have become toys for the rich. Increasingly they’re bought and sold and moved from city to city, disregarding the fans, cities or taxpayers that supported them.

The billionaire owners, supported by sports commissioners and associations like the NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL, are only interested in profit. They choose which city to go to based not on the love of the fans, but on how much money can be made. Take the Seattle Supersonics, an NBA basketball team that had been in the city for 41 years. They were bought by investors based in Oklahoma City and led by billionaire Clay Bennett, who demanded Seattle taxpayers pay $300 million for a new arena but Seattle voters refused. The owners then took the whole team to Oklahoma City, and turned it into OKC Thunder, to the heartbreak of tens of thousands of Seattle Sonics fans.

Lew Wolff, co-owner of the Oakland A’s, has been trying to move the team to the South Bay for years, not because that’s what the fans in Oakland and the Bay Area want, but because Wolff owns and develops real estate in San Jose and moving the team there would increase the value of his properties. They don’t want Oakland fans – they want rich Silicon Valley fans who can pay more for tickets.

The Sacramento Kings may be moving to Seattle. The Maloof Brothers, owners of the Kings, are trying to sell the team to Seattle investor Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. But another group of investors wants to buy the team and keep it in Sacramento. Where the Kings end up will be decided by these billionaires, not by the fans who love the Kings.

When it comes to sports owners and investors, it’s never about the city and the fans but always for the market and the money. Just like everything else in society, the things that matter to us are owned by the rich and are used to make billions of dollars.