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Golden State Warriors to SF just media chatter

The possible sale of The Golden State Warriors has got "Warriors to SF" fans excited once again. The last time there was this much interest in the possibility was 1997 through 1998, when the Warriors were temporarily playing their games at the HP Pavilion in San Jose until the newly refurbished Oakland (Oracle) Arena was finished.

Then, like today, the idea of the Warriors moving to San Francisco was floated in the media, and without checking with anyone in Oakland regarding the Warriors lease situation, and that's happening again today. The idea of the Warriors moving to SF has spread like wildfire online and offline.

Someone forgot to call Oakland City Attorney John Russo. Aside from representing the City of Oakland in legal negotiations with its sports teams, Russo was also an Oakland Councilmember and was there when the Warriors were waiting for the then-new Oracle Arena to be complete. Today, he says that the idea of the Warriors going to San Francisco is just "media chatter."

"Everything that's come up about the Warriors is just talk. No one who's an officer or an owner or a potential owner of the Warriors has said anything about leaving Oakland," Russo said Thursday. "It's quite different from the Oakland situation where the owner (of the Oakland A's) introduced the Mayor of San Jose at that mayor's State of The City Address, and that mayor saying he's trying to get them down there. No one who is lining up (to buy the Warriors) has said anything to me. There's nothing other than the speculation of different people. It's all media chatter."

Anyone with an idea of moving the Warriors anywhere would be wise to talk to Russo first. The City of Oakland's lawyer has openly stated a desire to file lawsuits against cities and organizations that try to pry Oakland's sports teams away from Oakland. Russo expressed it in my video interview with him last fall and regarding the Oakland A's brazen attempts to leave Oakland for San Jose. Russo sees it as economic tampering and tortious interference. The last legal term is when a third party tries to interfere in a contract between two parties. In this case, the "two parties" are Oakland and its sports teams.

In the matter of the Oakland A's lease situation of 1997 and the "East Bay Entities" clause allowing the City of Oakland to find a buyer that would keep the team in Oakland and the attempt to sell it to supermarket developer Bob Piccinini in 1999, Russo said "In the A's case that ("East Bay Entities" clause) was part of the workout of the lawsuit the A's brought against the City and the County by the Oakland A's. (Where the A's claimed the "leasehold", or their ability to gain value from using the Coliseum Stadium, was damaged by the return of the Raiders in 1995.) That settlement should have had a damage clause in case they (the A's or Major League Baseball) did not approve the sale of the team." Russo says that (aborted sale) was the only case where MLB did not approve a sale to an owner, and Russo's still smarting about it. Indeed, as Mayor Elihu Harris' Economic Advisor at the time, so is this blogger.

Russo says the Warriors lease contains provisions for what the Warriors have to do in consideration for the City of Oakland should they try to leave Oakland or are sold. Again, Russo has not had that conversation with Warriors owner Chris Cohan or anyone else connected in any way with the Warriors. He said he had one phone call from a sports executive who asked about the Warriors lease agreement, but Russo did not disclose who that person was.

Russo has a great deal of respect for Chris Cohan, who has had a great working relationship with Russo. "Cohan ownership has been easy to work with," Russo said. "I can't speak to why they had such a hard time putting a winning team on the court. They did put money into it. Gave two rich contracts to people. I feel bad for Chris."

Stay tuned.


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