Now, who wants to be facetious about a team that well knows the ‘muscle burn’ of chronicled struggles since joining the NBA in 1949? It all started in Milwaukee (1951), then on St. Louis (1955), and now, Atlanta (since 1965). Apparently, the Hawks simply cannot be forced to leave Atlanta before 2028 because of bond issues. That’s great; they can at least keep the same basketball court under their feet for a while longer. This is particularly good inasmuch as the Atlanta Hawks have become a presence in the NBA to claim an NBA championship since their last championship in St. Louis (1957-58 season). That doesn’t mean they have not been trying. What bothers all basketball fans, I truly believe, is how the team franchises are viewed more so as commodities and not living, breathing, competing sports teams.
The Hawks have had to pack their suitcases entirely too many times. Each owner – or group of owners – comes with a new mindset and new management. This, of course, has a marked effect on the few good trades but more bad trades, and the so-so lottery picks that have cut into the Hawks’ ability to steal the ball back and score.
St. Louis was a “sale move” and there have been two subsequent sales in Atlanta to date. The latest took place in April of this year when the then-current owner of the Hawks, Bruce Levenson, according to wikipedia auctioned the franchise via his proxy, Goldman Sachs, to an investment group led by entrepreneur Antony Ressler. Of course, there is investor talk about Mr. Levenson losing money on the table because a better price could have been claimed than the reported $850 million. Mr. Levenson’s advisors would have to respond to this.
Bruce Levenson, an apparent seasoned investor, philanthropist, and a fair and equitable individual, took a curve ball to the jaw for an email he authored about his observation that the Hawks could become a more marketable franchise. He queried openly the polarization of Hawks audiences. I viewed the email as a perfectly strategic opening to commence a marketing research initiative that actually might determine why the Hawks do not enjoy the support of a multi-cultural audience. I am sure the Hawks would be pleased. I am positive the Hawks have many multi-cultural fans. So, the answer is something that could be as elementary as a “marketing and ticket sales” fix, but the email turned into an albatross placed around Mr. Levenson’s right ankle that had to be removed.
The unfortunate situation between the L.A. Clipper’s former owner, Donald Sterling, the NBA, and all basketball fans has literally frightened many high-powered investors and would-be investors in sports because of the negative fallout.