SBD/Issue 219/Franchises

Stern Denies Threatening Schultz Over Lawsuit Against Bennett

NBA Commissioner Denies Threatening Schultz
To Drop His Lawsuit Against Sonics Owners
NBA Commissioner David Stern "denied he threatened" Starbucks Chair & CEO Howard Schultz over Schultz continuing his lawsuit seeking to rescind his '06 sale of the Sonics to Oklahoma City NBA franchise Owner Clay Bennett, according to court documents cited by Greg Johns of the SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER. NBA attorneys Friday submitted Stern's statement to U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman, along with a "brief in support of the league's motion to intervene in the suit." Stern in the sworn declaration said that he "told Schultz he didn't understand why [Schultz] 'would go to the hassle and expense of continuing to pursue this case' and that the NBA couldn't fulfill Schultz's hope of a commitment from the league to locate a team in Seattle in the future." Stern said in the statement, "At no time during the conversation did I threaten Mr. Schultz in any way -- either expressly or implicitly -- regarding his continuation of this lawsuit or any other matter." Seattle-based Summit Law Group attorney Ralph Palumbo said that there is "nothing vague whatsoever about the NBA's position, since it is trying to arm itself against a lawsuit seeking to unwind the sale of one of its franchises." Palumbo added that "that action would 'cause significant disruption' to the operation of the league in terms of scheduling, ticket sales, arena leases and player contracts" (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 8/2). Stern in the filing "described a 'pleasant and amiable conversation' with Schultz that covered social and business issues" (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/2). In Seattle, Jerry Brewer wrote of Schultz' effort, "You can't help rooting for him to win, even though you are probably incapable of forgiving him for the initial blunder." Brewer: "Dare we ask: Can Schultz get it all back -- his reputation, his respectability, his team? ... Even if he wins his lawsuit and clears the way for the Sonics to be sold to a local owner, he's still the one who created so much angst. There is no scenario in which Schultz can be a hero. And that's potentially the best part of this story" (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/3).

HIRING PROCESS: In Oklahoma City, Baldwin & Mayberry reported "more than 1,300 applications for jobs with Oklahoma City's NBA team have been collected by the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce." Chamber President Roy Williams estimated that 75-100 jobs "will need to be filled, but it could be more. It could be less" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 8/3).

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