The settlement allows Bennett to replicate and use copies of Sonics' memorabilia, including the 1979 NBA trophy, championship banners and the team's six retired jerseys. Bennett described the memorabilia as "assets," which he intends to use to market and promote the Oklahoma City team. And while he retains possession of the Sonics name, logo and...
Even though he’s gone, Clay Bennett will forever be linked to the Sonics.
His settlement this week with the city put the Sonics’ name, colors and logo on ice, but Bennett still will take what’s being called the franchise’s “shared history” to Oklahoma City.
The two sides are still negotiating what that means, with a meeting scheduled Aug. 1 to finalize the agreement.
The settlement allows Bennett to replicate and use copies of Sonics memorabilia, including the 1979 NBA trophy, championship banners and the team’s six retired jerseys.
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Bennett described the memorabilia as “assets,” which he intends to use to market and promote the Oklahoma City team. And while he retains possession of the Sonics name, logo and colors, he agreed not to use them.
Additionally, he owns the Sonics’ original championship trophy, banners and retired jerseys and is permitted to periodically display them in Oklahoma City. For most of the year, the items will be kept in Seattle at the Museum of History and Industry. Bennett agreed to return their ownership to Seattle should an NBA franchise emerge here.
City attorney Tom Carr said the city and Bennett’s attorneys had rushed to complete the settlement on Wednesday, a few hours before District Court Judge Marsha Pechman would have delivered her ruling in the trial between the city and the Sonics.
“We couldn’t work out all of the details of the settlement in the time we had, so we had to make sure we covered the basic points and had ourselves protected,” Carr said.
For now, the two parties agree to share the history of the team that played 41 years in Seattle. The Oklahoma City team will refer to Sonics records, statistics and history as its own.
According to the agreement, if Seattle is granted an expansion team in the next five years, that franchise will share the Sonics’ history with the Oklahoma City team.
If Seattle lands a team through relocation of an existing franchise, most likely the Oklahoma City team will retain sole possession of the Sonics history.
Carr is considering several proposals, including a scenario in which the Oklahoma City team’s history begins in 2006 when Bennett bought the franchise for $350 million from Howard Schultz.
“It was a condition of the deal for us that we keep the history, the name, the logo and the memorabilia,” Carr said. “That was a demand from Day 1. To that extent, the paragraph was put in at our insistence. It got changed a lot in the end.”
During negotiations, both parties learned the NBA owns the names and intellectual properties of teams and licenses them to owners. The league prohibits owners from giving away their team’s names to anyone other than another owner.
The NBA also didn’t want a team playing in Oklahoma City without a past history.
“I’m not happy with any of this,” Carr said. “I would prefer that the Sonics stay here, but in terms of a compromise, I think it gets us what we wanted. We had a big fight over leaving the memorabilia. They didn’t want to do that.
“We had to insist that was a deal-breaker for us to the extent that it keeps the name alive and the enthusiasm alive. That’s what’s going to get us a team in the future.”
When asked what happens to Sonics mascot Squatch, Carr chuckled.
“Nobody thought about preserving Squatch,” he said. “I don’t know that they’re going to take him with them. We might be able to negotiate to keep that. I’ll put that on the list.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com