A lot of bother could have been saved regarding the relocation of the Los Angeles Sparks if the WNBA had bothered to communicate - well, anything - regarding what was going on from the league headquarters. Fans have begged the WNBA to address their concerns but have not gotten so much as a paragraph.
The most recent report from the Los Angeles front comes from Lee Michaelson and Sue Favor over at FullCourt.com in an article titled "Sparks season ticket holders left in the cold". I recommend that you take a few minutes to read it right now.
The premise of the article is that those Sparks season ticket holders who have purchased tickets for the 2014 season have heard....well, nothing at all. Nothing from the league, and nothing from Paula Madison. (One season ticket holder, Aida Diaz, heard from Sparks president Vincent Malcolm.)
One theory could be that the WNBA is just hoping that this will blow over and after things are decided one way or another, no one will care about any complainers. The season ticket holders might get reimbursed or not but the theory holds that once the Sparks are saved/moved/folded the league can move on and treat the saga of the Sparks as old news.
It's not a theory with which I agree. If the WNBA decides to move or fold the Sparks and years later, decides to put another team in Los Angeles, there might be some previous season ticket holders who decide not to give the team a chance and spend their money elsewhere. An after-the-fact apology might not be enough.
So what should the WNBA have said/be saying? I decided to give it a shot. Taking the role of WNBA President Laurel J. Richie, I wrote this hypothetical message to all fans of the WNBA and to all Sparks season ticket holders:
Dear WNBA Fans,
As the league's President, I would like to say that I am very sorry that we have not shared any information with you about the previous management of the Los Angeles Sparks walking away from the franchise. It was our belief that keeping negotiations private would serve all parties best, and that the future of the Los Angeles Sparks as a franchise would quickly be settled. However, without going into the details for the delay, we now realize that keeping the fans of the Sparks and the WNBA "out of the loop" for so long was the wrong thing to do. We apologize for that, and we intend to set things right.
We ask you all to please bear in mind that we are in negotiations with groups who wish to purchase the Sparks. It is our hope that the Los Angeles Sparks will be sold to a group that will keep the team in Los Angeles, but there are prospective purchasers who wish to move the Sparks to another city, either for the 2014 or 2015 seasons. As WNBA President, I am confirming that this option remains on the table. Obviously, we would do what we can to keep the Sparks in Los Angeles, but above all we wish to do everything we can to avoid folding the Sparks if no local purchaser can be found that satisfies the requirements for WNBA ownership.
Unfortunately, we cannot go into detail as to these negotiations. Like all business negotiations, it is best that some things remain private and we hope that you will have patience while we complete the negotiations. We do not wish to inflate or deflate anyone's hopes, nor do we want to mention names lest we give the impression that we are favoring some prospective purchasers over others.
As for season ticket holders, let me say this - in the event that the Sparks are either relocated or folded, your money will be returned to you. I cannot give you details or a timeline at present, but we at the league office are preparing a plan for that eventuality if it comes to a relocation of the Sparks.
Regrettably, for the reasons above, we cannot provide any more information. By February 7th, we should be able to give you an update on the ownership negotiations regarding the Los Angeles Sparks, as well as on negotiations regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement, even if we have little to report.
We do want our fans to know that we are at work on these matters, and even thought there are privacy issues involved, we also want you to know that we are active and busy.
Laurel J. Richie
Sparks Watch Day 30: the Fan Petition update
We're about to complete our first month of the series. It is now Day 30, and still no apparent end in sight to this situation. So here's a quick update on the fan petition to keep them in LA.
See how easy that was? It doesn't give away any information, it just confirms what we already know - that the WNBA is looking for new owners. It reassures the season ticket holders that they'll get their cash back. It asks for patience, and it provides a fixed date for a future update - but promises nothing earth-shaking.
If the WNBA had said something it would have been much preferable to the current situation, where the WNBA is turning down requests for interviews regarding the situation in Los Angeles. Can the WNBA spare 15 minutes for a message? If the only message from the W is "nobody's home", that message might be echoed back from the fans in Los Angeles at some future date.
If you were the WNBA President, how would you have handled information control? Let us know in the comments below.
And the Warriors' arbitrary deadline is...mañana...
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