Thursday, March 27, 2008


Something interesting to talk about. (Not that the on court action isn't titillating.)

It seems that the local ownership is at odds with Michael Heisley. To make a long story short, the local owners want to buy the team, but Heisley thinks their offer is too low.

People on both sides think the other is being unreasonable. The tension is escalating, questions about relocation are beginning to surface, and the franchise is spiraling deeper and deeper in to an pile of shit the size of the Pyramid.

For me all of this talk raises a couple of interesting questions.

1. If the local owners aren't going to buy the Grizzlies, then who will?

There can't be many Memphis natives with an interest in owning a sports franchise that both have half a billion to spare and aren't already part of the local ownership group.

2. What does it mean that the Grizzlies can't or won't relocate now?

The local owners lost their right to match any offer in the latest standoff. This opens the way for an outsider to purchase the team. An outsider may have a vision of Memphis in another city. (Are there any billionaires native to the Seattle area?)

Calkins suggests that the Grizzlies can't be moved. (He also writes off those who think differently as ' gloom-and-doomers'.) Calkins says that the Grizzlies can't leave until 2020.

He also says that if the Grizzlies do try to move, Memphis and Shelby County can seek an injunction. Let me get this straight. The Grizzlies can't move, but if they do, we can 'injunct' them.

According to Wikipedia:

An injunction is an equitable remedy in the form of a court order, whereby a party is required to do, or to refrain from doing, certain acts. The party that fails to adhere to the injunction faces civil or criminal penalties and may have to pay damages or accept sanctions for failing to follow the court's order. In some cases, breaches of injunctions are considered serious criminal offences that merit arrest and possible prison sentences or death.

Based on the Grizzlies contract, the injunction would require a fine of over $100 million if they leave before 2012. The Grizzlies are losing $20 million a year in Memphis. Doesn't it make sense to pay the fine and turn a profit elsewhere?

If the Grizzlies can't leave before 2020, why is there an injunction with a fine attached?

It seems to me that the Grizzlies will be able to move for the right price. It's just a matter of whether someone will be willing to pay it.

Let's hope that the Grizzlies transform into a watchable team with a devoted following before then. Let's also hope someone with a disposable income doesn't show interest.

Perhaps the City should have negotiated death as punishment for breaking the injunction. I guess most Memphians wouldn't consider the Grizzlies leaving to be a 'serious offence' at this point.

The Grizzlies and Heisley have put forth some effort into trying make things work. Still, I'm betting that relocation would be exactly in line with what a lot of folks have come to expect from a franchise that has turned out to be quite a disappointment so far.


Justin said...

DJ -
Calkins saying that the Grizz cannot be moved is correct, with one caveat - the City and County has to want them to stay. From the article, it seems the provision in the lease Calkins is talking about sets out the necessary procedures if the owner of the Grizzlies want to break the lease. The 100 million is not a fine, but more of a buy-out. If the owners want to move the team and the City agrees to the buy-out, the owners can pay the city a series of payments over a period of time, or, "termination payments that doesn't sink below $100 million until 2012." However, if the owner wants to move out of Memphis and is willing to make the payments, but the City and County do not agree to the move and the owners try to move anyways, then the C and C can seek an injunction from the courts (a court provided remedy rather than a contractual one like the payment plan) to stop the Grizz from moving. Think of the injunction as a restraining order on the owners from relocating. If the owners then violate the injunction, which is a court order rather than something agreed to by two parties, there can be more penalties such as criminal charges, civil penalties, or whatever the court would say is the punishment for breaking the injunction - something entirely different from the termination payments already stipulated to in the lease.
So, if we want death to be the result of Heisley or someone else moving the Grizz, we would have to had written that into the original lease, or the court would have to deem that an appropriate punishment for violating the injunction that we sought from the court.
I feel confidant this information is correct, but other lawyers/law students feel free to correct me. Hope this clears some things up.

David Jones said...

Thanks Cho.

That makes sense.

If the Grizzlies decide to leave, Memphis can agree and take $100 million or say no.

If Memphis says no, and the Grizzlies try to leave anyway, they can seek a court order.

If the Grizzlies disobey the court order, there will be penalties.

So now my question is: Are there any past examples of this? Have other franchises violated injunctions? If so, what were the penalties? Did courts favor the cities or the franchises?

Anonymous said...

while here in the wee hours of nonsambulant haze, im not up to doing any research but off the top of my head im pretty sure that al davis ignored local legal deals when he moved the raiders to LA and then back to oakland...irsay did the same when the colts left baltimore.they wanted to move and the price was right and they just did in nashville,we had similar language in place for our NHL team however if it were not for a local group coming together to buy them, there seems to be little doubt they would have gone to ontario or kansas city in 2009.

grizzlies have some built in problems in memphis that arent going away anytime soon...demographics...laughable local govt etc...but i do believe that a winning team would make a lot of the attendence problems disappear.however, they cant keep drawing "official" attendence of ten thousand on most games.lets face it, that is a fantasy number anyway.they count all season tickets sold in those numbers..not real butts in some point, this will have to improve or they will move away.

an NFL team is the easiest major sport for a city to support.there are only eight home games played on the weekends.each game is an event.the tv deals are so sweet that bud adams does not have to sell one ticket to a titans game to make a profit...not so for the NBA and the NHL...they have to fill seats.