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Monday, June 23, 2008
More on Sonics Lawsuit

Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times has a terrific new piece on the increasingly-acrimonious lawsuit between the Sonics and the city of Seattle. The article is entitled "Sonics Trial: What's Under All the Drama?" He interviews my good friend Professor Al Brophy and me, along with others, for the story. Here's an excerpt of our comments:

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"I think the truth is the Sonics had the advantage going into this," said Michael McCann, a Boston College law professor and legal analyst for "The tradition of courts has been to substitute monetary damages."

A crucial test for the city to reverse that presumption may be whether it can prove that the Sonics are a unique tenant — one that brings benefits to the city that cannot be calculated in dollars and cents.

The city has argued that point, bringing in witnesses to talk about the Sonics' charity work and the team's spillover economic benefits to the community.

Seattle also brought in author and National Book Award winner Alexie — who compared NBA players to Greek gods — to speak for passionate fans who would miss the team. (He brought up the missing cucumber sandwiches, which had been served at a past season-ticket holder event, to imply Bennett had deliberately sabotaged fan interest.)

The city has "a strong argument" when it comes to the unique benefits of having an NBA team as its arena tenant, said Alfred Brophy, a law professor at the University of Alabama and an expert in landlord-tenant law.

"Public interest is a trump card that judges throw down to resolve these kinds of huge cases, especially when you have something like a building that a lot of people use, or a highway, or in this case, a city's treasured team," Brophy said in an e-mail.

Brophy dismissed Bennett's claim that the team would lose $60 million over the final two seasons at KeyArena.

"The team's fear that they'll lose money isn't a factor in whether they've broken the contract. Just because you struck a bad deal and you're going to lose money isn't a basis for getting out of a contract," he said.

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To read the rest of the article, click here. We have plenty of coverage of this trial on Sports Law Blog, including Mark Conrad's excellent post from last week.


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