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Owners of St. Louis ABA team want more NBA TV money

Sep 7, 2012, 8:36 AM EDT


Each year, the NBA pays part of the television revenue from the four former ABA teams — the Spurs, Pacers, Nets and Nuggets — to the owners of the now defunct Spirit of St. Louis. Seriously. It’s a budget line item for those teams. Nobody talks about the actual amount over the past 36 years but estimates have it at around $240 million.

It was part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed before the 1976 merger of the old ABA and NBA, one where name players like Oscar Robertson, John Havlicek and Bill Bradley challenge the anti-trust status of the NBA. The case was settled before the merger.

As part of the deal owners of the ABA team the Spirit of St. Louis, Ozzie and Dan Silna, agreed to fold their team if they were paid 1/7th of the NBA’s television revenue for four merged teams. Forever. As in a portion of the national television revenue that would go to the Spurs, Pacers, Nets and Nuggets next season will instead go to the Silna family. Not bad for doing nothing but waiting for the checks to roll in.

But it wasn’t enough.

Last year the NBA asked the courts to re-open the settlement, so the Silna brothers countered they were being shortchanged by not getting a piece of international and cable broadcast rights, reports the Associated Press.

Thursday a judge listened to arguments from both sides then told them to try and settle the case out of court, according to the AP.

To which I say yes — courts are already backlogged with actual cases that are of import to people’s lives, this is frivolous crap. The Silna’s are getting rich (well, richer, they were already rich) sitting on their behind, with their payments getting larger as the national television deals for the NBA have grown.

The Silna’s made a savvy business move a few decades back, when nobody predicted the NBA’s popularity surge. Good for them. I get why the NBA wants to revisit it, but they signed on to it. However, for the brothers to ask for more now just seems greedy. But welcome to America.

  1. JB (the original) - Sep 7, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    Wow. I think this outranks Mike Lynn’s deal with the Vikings/Metrodome as the greatest fleecing by an ex-owner/employee. He just passed away a couple months ago.

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Sep 7, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    Kurt, the plaintiffs of the lawsuit didn’t do “nothing”. They agreed to drop the lawsuit. Obviously, the NBA had doubts about whether it could win the suit, so it made the deal. And if the deal they made should include international and cable broadcast rights, then it isn’t being “greedy”. It’s getting clarification of their rights in the contract.

    Maybe the NBA owners are the ones being “greedy” here and not the Silnas.

    • woefulsoxfan - Sep 7, 2012 at 9:24 AM

      I agree. I understand that the Silna’s are getting “richer”, but its not like the NBA has been starving – they have plenty of steaks in the freezer. If the NBA made an agreement with this family, and now says “welll…enough time has passed…enough”, why can’t they do the same with their other agreements? When is “enough” time enough? Why decides that? If you agree to pay me a nickle every time you mention the name of a color, you can’t then later say, well I only meant primary colors. If the NBA made an agreement, they need to honor it.

  3. makeham98 - Sep 7, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    Agree with Chris. Just because their deal worked out wildly better than anyone expected, they still have claim to the terns of the agreement. Why shouldn’t they be paid on the same basis as the current owners?

    • zblott - Sep 7, 2012 at 12:31 PM

      Agreed – the NBA’s lawyer at the time was simply an idiot for leaving this so open-ended when they saw the league moving much more toward TV. ESPN was incorporated not 2 years later, so how much foresight did it really take to think people might start watching more sports on TV in the future.

      Absolute idiot.

  4. sportsiq - Sep 7, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    Not sure why a group of people ensuring their legal agreement is enforced is considered greedy, but someone trying to prevent it from being enforced isn’t considered greedy at all.

    The Slina’s and the NBA made a deal. There is zero relevance in how one sided it is or how little the Slina’s have to work to get their money.

    The NBA made the deal and have to live with it. Case closed.

  5. papichulo55 - Sep 7, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    Create a health and wefare fund for the ABA players. Players lost jobs due to the merger. Were they also compensated?

  6. cacsemo - Sep 7, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    seperate issue, but, why is st louis never considered for getting a team? i know if a team moves now seattle is #1 choice but STL seems like it would be a good deal.

    • zblott - Sep 7, 2012 at 12:26 PM

      For as good as the Hawks were when they were in St. Louis until ’68, their lasting legacy is that of being the most racist team in history — to clarify, the actual players were quite racist (last all-white starting lineup for a champ – ’58 Hawks).

      Now the city is Oakland’s peer, and just a small step behind Baltimore and Detroit, on the “not a place you’d ever move to if you have spent time in other cities and didn’t have to.” I can’t imagine many people in the league are rushing to get a franchise in a dangerous city with a ridiculously fast-falling population (1950: 857k, 1980: 453k, 2010: 319k).

      • ron05342 - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:23 PM

        No, they aren’t going to get a basketball team; as a matter of fact, it appears they are going to lose their football team as well.

        Rumor is the Rams will be moving back to Los Angeles once the contract is up. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

  7. zblott - Sep 7, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    Boy whoever the NBA’s lawyer was on this issue must have been really stupid to not consider how much this could potentially (and did) cost its teams down the road, forever. Not a visionary of the sport at all.

    Oh…it was David Stern.

    • jostler18 - Sep 7, 2012 at 2:56 PM

      That… is a great comment. Best I’ve seen on any boards in a long time.

  8. somekat - Sep 7, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    Seems stupid and greedy to me, but it would depend on the terms of the contract. My guess is, the terms of the contract state that they get a share of national tv revenues. If that is what they agreed to, that is all they get, period. If the NBA found new markets well after this merger, and well after this agreement was made, they get nothing. It would be different if they signed this agreement, then 2 weeks later signed a major cable and major international deal. But they didn’t, it was literally decades later before it became an issue.

    Now if the contract said broadcasting rights, they’d have an issue. But if it did, I’d assume they would of came at them about radio contracts 20 years ago. Since they haven’t, I’d assume the language of the contract contains both “national” and “television”.

    If you sell a business and make an agreement on certain future earnings (and this was their prolblem if the contract is how I think it is, defining specific revenue means they only get that specific revenue), and the new owner, with their work and innovation, expand the markter, you don’t get to go back and change the terms because you didn’t think they would be THIS valuable. If you could, the tech, auto, and countless other industries would of went bankrupt so long ago they’d just be distant memories.

  9. franbotel - Sep 8, 2012 at 1:06 AM

    The greedy sports owners as usual, they agreed to the stupid deal and now want to go back on it. I hope the Silna’s cleans them up. Now they’ve exposed themselves to more damages by reopening the case. Instead of paying up, they tried to slime away from the original deal.

  10. dremmel69 - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    Actually, welcome to the human race. No single culture has ever held a monopoly on greed.

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