Mayor Cornett refuses to sign letter to NBA

BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: October 19, 2011
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Mayors from 14 NBA cities recently sent an open letter to the league and its players union, asking them to end the lockout.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett refused to sign.

“I just felt like the players and owners are on the same side as we're on. Everybody wants it to be resolved,” Cornett said Wednesday. “It just seems disrespectful to sign a letter that seemed to imply somebody was necessarily at fault.”

Cornett played a prominent role in helping the city lure an NBA franchise, but he has maintained a low profile throughout the league's 111-day lockout. However, he is still paying close attention to negotiations between the owners and players.

“If forced to take a side, I would side with the owners in this deal,” Cornett said. “If anyone believes commissioner (David) Stern or the owners want to start canceling games, I just can't imagine where that line of thinking is coming from. That's the last thing anybody wanted to do.

“They (owners) obviously are serious about getting a better business deal with the players. The players are going to have to see that the economics have changed, and they're still getting a good deal, even if it is not as good as it was (in the previous CBA).”

Cornett said Oklahoma City's greatest loss during a lockout is not being able to utilize the promotional value of the NBA's worldwide stage, which he said cannot be quantified.

“That's something that's more important to us than the economic impact of a few games,” Cornett said.

The city manager's office estimates each Thunder home game has a direct economic impact of $1.28 million on the city, which would total $52.48 million for the 41-game regular season.

Despite being the third-smallest market in the NBA (ahead of Memphis and New Orleans), the Thunder quickly has become a financially solvent franchise with a promising future after advancing to the Western Conference finals last season.

The NBA claims 22 teams lost money last season, which is the crux of negotiating the league's new collective bargaining agreement.

“We're in a unique situation where a small-market team is now making money,” Cornett said. “That's an unusual combination. From our perspective, if the issue was ‘Should big markets share with small markets?' that would be great. But if it's ‘Should profitable teams share with nonprofitable teams?' that's not so good for us. We'd be helping to bail out some of the cities who just can't get their act together.”

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