The Spirit In Atlanta Seems To Be Fading From Hawks’ Ownership

By Gregory Moore
Updated: August 11, 2005

Joe Johnson and Steve Belkin

Joe Johnson & Steve Belkin

SAN ANTONIO — All I can do is just shake my head as I read the divorce proceedings down in the ATL. The only thing I have for Hawks’ fans is empathy because no fan base should be subjected to the utter horse poop that Steve Belkin and the other eight owners are publicly displaying right now.

I mean what can I say or write that may actually soothe the emotional scars that the Atlanta Spirit, LLC group has destroyed within a thirty-day period? And if I’m Joe Johnson do I even want to be an employee of this franchise now? Maybe, in that case, it would be better for Johnson to just stay a disgruntled Phoenix Sun player who has $70 million in the bank.

With the spirit gone, how can Hawks’ fans even look for repairing their hearts and how in the world can this fan base stop being the laughing stock of the national sports scene, as we know it? In all honesty, I don’t have the answers to those questions; at least not the answers that many may want to hear but I do know this: there is no excuse for what is going down and somebody needs to fix this problem before the end of the month.

Maybe what the ownership doesn’t understand is that the fan base is a hell of a lot smarter than they get credit for. If Belkin is thinking he can flub his way through this ordeal he has another thing coming. I will write until I get writer’s cramp on how this franchise can be better and that if Mr. Belkin can’t see what everyone else so plainly sees, then I’ll be one of the national writers leading the charge to get his behind out of the governorship.

This situation makes no sense and everyone involved should be profusely apologizing for the way this has come to pass. The Hawks franchise is worth $232 million as of Forbes magazine’s last valuation calculations. When the team was bought in 2004, it was worth only $208 million. This dog gone consortium has already made money in franchise value and the fans are dealing with the pettiness of sign and trade? Are they serious?

Maybe what the ownership doesn’t understand is that this fan base understands that 2004 player salaries were around the $60 million range and that thirteen wins isn’t going to cut the mustard. Yet here’s what has me more upset than probably some fans are right now. The ownership group went to court in Boston instead of Atlanta and a judge, who has no business deciding what is a good business trade or not, has told the eight members that while the group spoke highly of Johnson’s talents, he may not, however, be the only basketball player who can serve his potential role for the Hawks.

Nor is it clear that getting Johnson and giving up two first-round picks in the 2006 player draft and another player who was himself a first-round pick along with the amount of money required would not equally as well have an equally devastating result for the franchise,” Okay let me put this in terms that Judge Allan van Gestel, Belkin and others can understand: This is not a “standard” financial business; this is professional sports and it is about winning. Now does that mean at all costs? Of course not but Judge van Gestel doesn’t have a clue how important this trade is unless it was for the betterment of the Boston Celtics.

If Johnson went to the Celtics you would have a team that could challenge for the Eastern Conference title. What kind of player is Joe Johnson? Well for one more clearer understanding, Johnson is a difference maker and evidently Belkin doesn’t understand that. He can’t understand it if he is continually trying to bully his way as the governor of this team.

This franchise is in dire need of stability and here it is right now wallowing in a quagmire of bull dong, double talk and legal eagle maneuvers that could derail this team for another five seasons. There is a reason why coveted free agents don’t want to come to the Hawks and this very debacle of business dealings during the free agent period is magnifying every free agent’s worst night mare: the Atlanta Hawks, as a franchise, are career killers because of mismanagement from head to toe.

Those may be very harsh words in the above paragraph but what kind of reassurances has the Atlanta Spirit LLC given potential players and their fans? Nothing because they cannot give the assurance that their ownership understands how business is done in this league.

I’m not a Hawks’ fan. Heck my team has twenty some odd owners and you don’t read about this type of wrangling in the press; what you see are three championships in seven years. Steve Belkin says he wants to build a winning franchise; a championship franchise.

Well, here’s a news flash Mr. Belkin: you have to spend money to get a championship. If Belkin doesn’t understand that sports business acumen then he has no business being the governor of this franchise and he needs take his 30% and go home. Let somebody else who understands the way sports business works be a co-owner because evidently Steve Belkin hasn’t got a clue. Not now and definitely not in the future.

FIRINGS SHOULDN’T HAVE TAKEN THIS LONG This may be the case of better late than never. KNBR has fired show host Larry Krueger after he, the show’s program director Bob Agnew and Krueger’s producer, Tony Rhein after a recent show in which they continued their bad taste in show material in which the lampooned Giants’ manager Felipe Alou’s comments from Monday’s appearance on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”.

I have been in the sports media business for over a decade and never have I read a story in which a talk show host would have said the ungodly comments that Krueger said on his Aug. 3rd broadcast and then follow it up with the show’s producer and station program director contributing to the ill will that had already been set forth.

Krueger’s suspension was warranted for the station to take the appropriate measures. I don’t know of anyone in the sports radio business that could disagree with how KNBR handled it. I will reiterate what I wrote in an earlier piece about this topic: bigotry and ignorance have no business in the sports media field.

T.O. DESERVES THE CRITICISM HEADED HIS WAY I promised myself that I would not dog Terrell Owens for the rest of the summer. I promised my good friend Tee that I wasn’t going to dog her boy for a while. Well all bets are off after reading about how Owens decided to try and play Willy Foo Foo in practice on Wednesday, the 10th of August, Terrell has reneged on a deal with us Black folks. He has acted a fool for the last time and he can’t use the excuse of “I’m doing what’s best for my family”.

Let me expound on this “family” excuse. How many families have an individual who can earn eight figures in just two years? That population in the black community is smaller than in others and it is time for Black athletes to realize this fact. If someone is willing to give you a few million dollars to carry a pigskin-covered ball, you better quit tripping and say, “thank you, I will not let you down”.

I didn’t say anything about kissing somebody’s behind but evidently there’s this mindset that athletes, especially Black athletes, have god given rights when it comes to professional sports. Whoever has told these players that they can act crazy, talk crazy and forget who they are and WHAT they are in terms of being a professional athlete needs to be arrested.

So it shouldn’t surprise me that Owens got suspended and now he is about to find out who is the original “dirty bird” franchise. I’ve really tried to take a wait and see attitude on this sports snippet because I didn’t want to be accused of jumping to conclusions but now there is just too much evidence out there that says that Owens will always be imbecilic in nature and think he is bigger than any player on the field.

Well he’s not. He’s definitely not a consummate professional and right now I can’t say he’s one of the top skill players in the league because he isn’t out there showcasing those very skills that get assessed. Right now he is nothing more than another spoiled Black athlete to me who hasn’t learned to be “grown up” about his contract dispute.

I’ll say this for the last time (hopefully) too. Owens signed his current deal despite what the union advised so now he needs to live by it. Be a man about it Terrell and honor your contract. You want to be a leader, do like Donavan McNabb; honor your contract. When you exceed the deal (or if you can exceed it), then maybe somebody will restructure it.

THE 1ST ANNUAL BASN FANTASY LEAGUE? Lastly I had this brainstorm of an idea. Why don’t the writers and readers of BASN compete against each other in a NFL fantasy football league? Now before anyone gets slaphappy, there will be no prizes won; the only thing you can say is that you are the King or Queen of the BASN fantasy league.

So if anyone is interested, e-mail me at and in your subject heading type “Fantasy Football”. Put your name in the e-mail document as well. I want to at least get about 50 participants in on this so that we can have some good fun and get to know each other. If it works out, maybe we’ll convince the powers that be to make this a part of the site on an ongoing basis (baseball, basketball, etc).

So remember, if you are interested, drop me a line so I can start compiling a list together. I’ll set the deadline to be the 24th of this month so that I can get everything together that weekend and have an article detailing where the league will be and so forth. Let’s make this happen, gang.