Sports with Art Thiel
5:00 am
Fri August 23, 2013

Can Chris Hansen Be Trusted?

Sports with Art Thiel weekly commentary

A lot of questions remain following the revelation that Seattle arena investor Chris Hansen gave $100,000 to the anti-arena campaign in Sacramento, well after losing the battle to relocate the city's NBA team to Seattle.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel wonders if Seattle arena stakeholders are wondering whether Hansen can be trusted.  

A Credibility Mistake

It's come to light that after the rejection by NBA owners of his bid to buy the Kings in mid-May, Hansen had a Los Angeles law firm wire his $100,000 to a Sacramento anti-arena group. The group is gathering signatures to have the public contribution subject to a citywide vote in June 2014.

The law firm is the same one that was used by the Maloof family that used to own the team. None among Hansen, the law firm or the anti-arena group disclosed the source of the June 21 donation by the July 31 deadline. That triggered a probe by a state of California campaign contribution watchdog group.

Hansen quickly issued a statement after the contribution was revealed. "Chris Hansen said it was a mistake he regrets," Art said. "There was not exactly an apology, although Mayor McGinn in Seattle said 'yes he did call me an apologize.' But the issue was very large in Sacramento because this is breaking California campaign law and the fine could be up to $100,000."

Widespread repercussions

Art says this is not only a big deal in Sacramento but here in Seattle as well.

"The anti-arena group in Sacramento was knocked off its pins and it's going to be difficult for them to recover from this," he said. "It's also going to be a challenge for Chris Hansen to recover his credibility in Seattle. I understand that Sonics fans want to back Chris Hansen because he shares their passion for the return of the NBA. But this questions his judgment."

Why Keep Fighting?

Art says he has a lot of questions surrounding Hansen's motives. "Why was Chris Hansen still continuing to fight a battle that he had already lost? And come back to Seattle and done interviews saying, 'I felt like a predator. I don't want to do that again. I was sick to my stomach'?"

"It sounded as if he were very sincere about the end of the hopes to try to bring the Kings to Seattle," Art continued. "Clearly he was doing something to undermine the project in Sacramento. And that can't be seen very well by the NBA owners because he was basically trying to, from the outside, undermine a new lodge brother, the owner of the Kings."

A Trust Issue

Hansen says he did this all on his own. Art wonders if that makes his arena partners feel better or worse. "That says, to me, what else don't we know about this campaign? What else do his investors and the politicians who backed this endeavor—what do they not know about what's going on?"

"The issue is always about Hansen's judgment. This was a very naive thing to do," Art said. "I don't know that he meant it malevolently but all the politicians who've supported Hansen to this point have got to be thinking, 'I don't know if I can  trust this guy. What else doesn't he know about politics and the way to get this project done?' So he has some explaining to do for a whole lot of people for the rest of the summer."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.