Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver has issued a video statement on Twitter in response to reports that he threatened to move the team to Seattle of Las Vegas:
A message from Managing Partner, Robert Sarver: pic.twitter.com/f2YLC0woYG
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 13, 2018
If you hate to turn on audio on your computer like I do, here’s a transcript of the good bits:
“First and foremost, the Phoenix Suns are not leaving Phoenix. I am 100 percent committed, and have been for the last four years, to find a solution keep them in downtown Phoenix where they belong.”
That would seem to contradict reports that Sarver told city councilmembers that he’d considering moving the team out of town without publicly funded arena renovations, not to mention a news conference last year where he said, “First priority is downtown Phoenix, but if that is not something the city wants to do, then, you know, I’ve got to look somewhere else.” Unless you parse the Twitter statement carefully to mean “We’re not leaving Phoenix because Phoenix is going to give us $168 million for arena renovations so we’ll stay, won’t you, Phoenix?” In which case all this is just a classic non-threat threat, and neither the threats to leave nor the promises to stay should be taken as anything more than empty PR.
In the meantime, pushback has begun on how to eliminate the Suns arena subsidy, or at least make it marginally less onerous. Phoenix councilmember Sal DiCiccio says “at the very least it’s got to be a fifty-fifty deal,” while Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts suggests five ways to improve the arena plan:
- Cut the public’s share from two-thirds to one-third (better, yes, though as with DiCiccio’s halfsies plan, still arbitary)
- Make the Suns promise to stay put more than 15 more years in exchange (an excellent thought, since you don’t want Sarver or his successor coming back in a decade or so saying “Those 2019 renovations are looking a little out of date…)
- Don’t fall for idle threats when we don’t even know if the NBA would approve a move out of Phoenix (not really a specific way to improve the deal, but sure, always good advice)
- Don’t give Sarver money until the team starts winning games (tempting, but implies that a winning team suddenly is worthy of public subsidies, whereas if the Suns were winning games, arguably fans would be showing up and Sarver wouldn’t have to whine about his creaky old arena)
- Wait till a new mayor is elected in March before negotiating anything (democracy, what a concept!)
Finally, Suns president Jason Rowley complains that the arena money isn’t really going to benefit the Suns, since Phoenix owns the arena, and traditionally it’s the landlord who pays for upgrades, not the tenant. Sure, but also traditionally the tenant doesn’t get to keep all the money from putting a giant billboard on the outside of the building, and also traditionally when a landlord does upgrades, it gets to hike the tenant’s rent to help pay for them. Does Rowley’s analogy extend as far as offering to increase the Suns’ lease payments to the city? There’s another suggestion Roberts could add to her list.