Timberwolves

The Wolves Should Be a Publicly Traded Company

Photo credit: USA Today Sports

I promised myself that this would be my week off, but then Kevin Garnett nuked Glen Taylor, and Timberwolves Twitter was set ablaze. Somehow this team is un-followable, and yet there are more things to write about than ever.

The Big Ticket, not big enough?

K.G. informed the world that he was out of the bidding for ownership of the Timberwolves, posting his feelings on his Instagram stories:

Yes, of course. Not hurt, just disappointed. When Krawczynski followed up, Taylor insisted that Garnett never contacted him about the deal. Evidently, none of the buying groups that inquired included the name Kevin Garnett. To be clear, Taylor is asking for something north of $1.3 billion, and although Garnett is now second in all-time career earnings with $325 Million, I would be hard-pressed to think he would have more than a 20% interest in the team.

No one knows right now if K.G. couldn’t get the funding together or if Taylor is being hyperbolic about the lack of communication, but with the Timberwolves, anything is possible. I assume Garnett will clap back by the time you read this, so stay tuned. I guess. It doesn’t look like we’re getting a jersey retirement ceremony soon.

Who Will Buy the Wolves, then?

Taylor has been adamant the whole time that the next owner will have to keep the team in Minnesota. It’s impossible to add this clause in perpetuity, but Glen could make it more difficult to end the Timberwolves’ lease at the Target Center, which has 13 NBA seasons left on it. Needless to say, bereft of the opportunity to take this team immediately to Seattle, buyers have become wary, and the $1.3 billion price tag will be increasingly difficult to match with each loss.

As an aside, I don’t think the Wolves are as close to leaving as the fear-mongering NBA Twitter accounts would have you think. The NBA is very seriously considering a two-team expansion within the next two years, and 32 teams makes so much more sense in a 16-team playoff format anyway. The two most likely cities to be added in expansion are Seattle and Las Vegas. Seattle is a shoo-in, but regardless of what the second expansion team is, if Taylor can prevent the team from moving for three years, he should be able to curb relocation for the time being.

This whole situation has me in a catch-22. I can’t support Taylor, who has been a top-five worst NBA owner of all-time in a league that supported Donald Sterling for 30 years, but he is the one person between the Timberwolves and Seattle. I also am reluctant to hope for a K.G. ownership group blindly. Before you ratio me on Bleacher Report, hear me out. My guess with Garnett is that he would want to get intimately involved in roster configuration as a former player, which, as we learned with Michael Jordan, hasn’t worked very well.

We’ll see what happens with LaMelo Ball falling into their lap. I maintain that Ball was the easiest pick of the draft as he was a consensus top-three pick.

I also want to give Gersson Rosas a chance. The only way to create a winning culture is to have some consistency in the decision-making positions, and I foresee a Garnett ownership group flipping house ONCE AGAIN. At the same time, I want to see No. 21 in the rafters, but what ownership group would keep the Wolves in Minnesota and have the best chance at bringing him back to Target Center?

The Case for Public Ownership

The NBA currently does not allow more than 25 members per ownership group, and each member must own at least a 1% share of the team. This is an archaic concept designed to concentrate power in the hands of the elites. For obvious reasons, the NBA Board of Governors will never accept this until we begin to reframe our minds on public ownership in the NBA and demand action, so I’m using my platform here to get the ball rolling.

First, there is precedent for this. The Green Bay Packers have been a publicly traded non-profit since 1923. Not only have they been one of the most successful NFL franchises, but they are heralded around the league for the amazing sense of community they bring to the smallest hometown of any sports franchise. Of course, the NFL has since developed its own ownership limits, but thankfully the Packers have been grandfathered in. If Taylor truly wanted the Timberwolves to stay in the Twin Cities, public ownership is the easiest route to doing that. This has been the case with the Packers, and on top of that, it would thread this team into the fabric of the Minneapolis community.

Okay, that’s the last good thing I’ll ever say about the Packers, I promise.

The notion of public ownership would enfranchise millions of working-class people in countless ways. It would center our culture around togetherness instead of individuality. As citizens, we should not give up on these allegedly unrealistic pipe dreams. As Timberwolves fans, we have been dreaming of having a healthy culture around the team and an identity for 32 years. Public ownership can realize this.

Public ownership isn’t just favorable for fans. It’s an issue of ethics. According to Business Insider, billionaires’ wealth increased by $3.9 trillion from March 18th to Dec. 31st, 2020. Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos pays many of his Amazon employees $7.25/hr and keeps them part-time so he doesn’t have to give them healthcare. His employees are forced to apply for public-option healthcare and welfare, in addition to government subsidies for opening warehouses in certain locations, etc. This results in socialism for the rich. The same socialism for the rich exists within sports.

All too often, these owners (especially new owners) hold cities hostage and threaten to move the franchise if the city doesn’t foot the bill for their fantasy coliseum. Minnesota has seen this over and over again from Red McCombs and Zygi Wilf to Jim Pohlad. It’s a disgrace for communities and fanbases to show such loyalty, only to have to finance the billionaires. It’s not like these owners aren’t making money off of the sport. Taylor bought the Wolves in 1994 for $88 Million. Considering inflation, this is still around a 1,000% return on investment based on the latest price tag. No wonder billionaires don’t want to let the public in on this. Owning a sports franchise is essentially like if an email from a Nigerian prince was real.

Furthermore, even the term “owner,” especially within a league made up of a majority of Black American men, has obvious negative connotations. It was just this year that I learned of the term “governor” becoming politically correct in place of owner. This is classic capitalist neoliberalism, solving a leak with a band-aid when the whole container is corrupted. The problem isn’t the word owner. A governor is just an owner with a BLM mustache. The problem is the 20th-century concept of ownership, and regarding the Wolves, there are two men that we can hold accountable to change this:

Glen Taylor: If you care about Minnesota, sell the team to the people you purport to care about. We’ll keep the team in Minnesota.

Adam Silver: If you truly believe that Black Lives Matter, the right thing to do is eradicate “governors” altogether. It begins with a rule change, and it ends in equity for everyone.

Maybe then Kevin Garnett would come back.

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