The saga behind the mysterious “Sonics meeting’’ involving entrepreneur Chris Hansen, his arena investment group and the local NAACP chapter has taken a new twist.
On Thursday, one of the event’s organizers said the meeting — supposedly scheduled for next Monday — has been put off indefinitely because of information prematurely leaked to the media. Sadiqa Sakin, president of the NAACP’s Seattle-King County chapter, said details of the meeting were put out without authorization last week by one of her group’s board members and before anything with Hansen’s investment team had been finalized.
Sakin said any meeting between Hansen’s group and hers was always intended to be private with no media involvement. As such, it will be held at a future date and at an undisclosed location without the media being told any details until after it takes place.
“There will be a future private meeting with the Sodo group and the NAACP Seattle/King County President,” says a statement released Thursday by Sakin. “The story that was released a week ago was premature and wasn’t approved by the NAACP. After we have our private meeting the NAACP will decide if this partnership will serve the community in a way that fits the NAACP core values.”
Details of the meeting began leaking out last month when a Seattle-born reporter that has written for the Los Angeles News Observer asked Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant a question at a nationally televised press conference. The reporter, Cameron Buford, prefaced his question by stating: “Seattle on the 13th of May is having a meeting to try to bring back the Sonics.’’
But neither the NBA, the City of Seattle, nor the group undertaking a $900 million overhaul of KeyArena for hockey and basketball knew anything of such a meeting. Instead, when interviewed by The Seattle Times, Buford said he was told of the meeting by NAACP board member Abin-bola Nellams and that it involved Hansen’s group — which is stalled in its bid to build a new arena in the city’s Sodo District.
Nellams, who has the “Labor Chairman’’ title with the local NAACP, is also chairman of the Seattle Community Coalition. That coalition of community groups has a working agreement with Hansen’s investment team on a number of potential community benefits should the Sodo project ever get off the ground.
Nellams had appeared last month with Hansen on a community radio program in which he extolled the virtues of the agreement and Hansen’s project.
Reached for comment on May 1, Nellams confirmed he’d told Buford about the meeting and that it was taking place this Monday at the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) offices on 16th Ave. S. where the NAACP typically has regular meetings.
Nellams also said the purpose of the meeting with Hansen was to drum up support within the community to lobby the city to sell Hansen a part of Occidental Ave. South so he can complete his land acquisitions needed for the project. The Seattle City Council three years ago voted 5-4 not to sell Hansen’s group the street.
“All of the community groups are going to get together and start putting a lot of pressure on the Mayor and the council members to vacate this street,” Nellams said. “That’s pretty much what it’s about.”
Nellams reconfirmed the Monday date, time and address for the meeting in an email to The Times earlier this week. But on Wednesday, WSLC official David Groves contacted The Times to say no such meeting was taking place at its offices.
Groves expressed concern that Sonics fans might show up in large numbers to a meeting that isn’t taking place and asked that the public be made aware of the erroneous information.
On Thursday, Nellams said via email the meeting had originally been scheduled at the WLSC offices.
“Once this hit the news, Sadiqa (Sakin) moved the location without telling me,” he said.
Sakin declined further comment beyond her statement.