Saying “No” to Blackmail

We’ve seen it many times: a professional sports team that blackmails a city or state into building it a new stadium or arena or helping it build a new stadium or arena by declaring that if the city doesn’t, it’ll leave town. Almost everywhere it happens, city officials back down and give the millionaire and billionaire owner of the teams whatever he wants because heaven forbid their town not have a baseball/football/basketball team.

But not Seattle.

In 2009 Seattle lost its professional basketball team because even though that team sold out every seat for every game, the team’s owners wanted fancy and highly lucrative luxury boxes. When state and local officials wouldn’t help them get those fancy and highly lucrative luxury boxes, the team’s owners sold their team to a group that found another town, Oklahoma City, more than happy to give them those fancy and highly lucrative luxury boxes. The team picked up and moved out of town, leaving behind a forlorn Seattle.

After a few years a movement started in Seattle to upgrade the departed team’s arena so it could have those fancy and highly lucrative luxury boxes. The project was to be financed mostly with private money but of course sought some public support, but when the issue came before the Seattle city council that body rejected the proposal.

What makes this worth noting are two things: first, The Curmudgeon loves it, because he thinks millionaires and billionaires should build their own damn palaces because the financial benefits they bring to the city in which they’re located just aren’t worth the investment of taxpayer money; but the second thing is something that absolutely tickles him: the city council voted down the measure by a vote of 5 to 4 – and all five of the “nay” votes came from women.

How about that!

So why’d they do it? Do they hate basketball? Hate sports?

Hardly. The New York Times reports:

The women on the Council, in their comments before the vote, all said that financial arguments had swayed them. They said that giving over city resources for the project without any promise that a National Basketball Association team would come — and with recent comments by league officials that no new franchise was likely — made the arena terms questionable, and that another location, already owned by the city, should be considered.

The Curmudgeon doesn’t know about you, but he thinks that’s a damn fine reason.

The men of Seattle, however, didn’t see it that way. Again, as reported by the Times:

The resulting backlash was ugly, and swift.

In hundreds of email messages and social media posts, the female Council members were attacked by people — practically all apparently men — who said they lacked intelligence and an understanding of the importance of sports because they are women. One Twitter poster simply used a four-letter graphic insult to define them. Another man, in a signed email, suggested they should all kill themselves and “rot in hell.” Other critics, in less violent but equally demeaning terms, addressed them as “ladies,” who should “go back to the kitchen.”

In a way, The Curmudgeon likes that, too: likes it because it shows what morons some people can be and likes it because he applauds public officials, regardless of gender, who stand their ground and do something even if they know it won’t be popular because they know they’re doing the right thing.

And if the thing they’re doing right is saying no to government handouts to billionaires offering nothing of value in return, then that’s just frosting on the cake.

The Curmudgeon suspects that at some point something will be done in Seattle to upgrade the city’s current arena. The drive to do so there continues and projects like this one seem to have inevitable outcomes, but he also suspects that as a result of the actions of these five wise and courageous city council members, the city’s taxpayers will get a much better deal in return for their contribution to the project.

So at the risk of being labeled sexist, The Curmudgeon will just say…

You go, girls!

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