In America, if you're not getting what you need quickly enough, there is always a simple back-up plan available: go to court, tie everything up in paperwork and bureaucracy, and end up with a settlement. It's almost one of our golden rules. And so it's almost a surprise that, with lockouts straining two major professional sports in this country in the past year, Memphis is the first city to make any noise about a lawsuit.
The Grizzlies' FedExForum is funded by the team's revenue, and if the team loses a substantial portion of the 2011-12 season, taxpayers will be responsible for the financial loss. Fox Memphis reports that they'll have to make up an estimated "$18 million in bond payments" if the entire season is lost. With that burden in mind, City Council Attorney Allan Wade has been asked "to explore all options, including a lawsuit against the NBA." Here's more from the Fox report:
"Should this lockout stay until December, then there's a very big bill there that the city of Memphis will be responsible for," said Councilwoman Janis Fullilove. "And whether or not we file a lawsuit, which may set precedent among other cities in this nation, is something we'll have to wait and see. But it's only being proactive that's he's offering this resolution."
Wade says this is the first city he's heard of considering this type of action. "If it gets to be half a season that's a big problem. If that thing sits idle for a whole season that's a big problem," he said. "I think that goes against the spirit of our agreement because our arena is built with revenue, not guaranteed money... I'm surprised other people haven't used other options to try and recover their money."
The NBA is expected to wrap up talks with a federal mediator later today—they met in Manhattan yesterday for 16 hours—but the Grizzlies, along with the rest of the NBA, are already missing out on the first two weeks of the season. Memphis's action highlights the fact that that's a very different strain for the league's one-team towns.
As Ball Don't Lie pointed out earlier today, and as Wade alludes to above, it will be interesting to see if any other teams take similar action. There's been a lot of talk so far about the impact the lockout will have beyond owners, players, and fans—stadium workers, for example, will have to make up their lost salaries somehow—but it's when the obligations falls to the taxpayers that the lawsuits start to come out.
Memphis Looks to Sue NBA over Lockout [Fox Memphis]