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Are Golden State’s owners trying to loot the city of Oakland?

A missed payment deadline for the 2017 NBA Championship parade brings to light a disappointing tale of how the Warriors have been stiffing the city.

New Orleans Pelicans v Golden State Warriors
Warriors owners Peter Guber (R) and Joe Lacob (L) at 2015 NBA Championship ring presentation ceremony on October 27, 2015 at Oracle Arena.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob proclaimed before a gleeful, celebratory crowd that the 2017 Championship Parade and Rally would not be a burden to the city of Oakland.

“This parade, this whole day, all the costs, every dollar, are on us,” Lacob promised the cheering crowd. “It’s our gift to the city of Oakland.”

Now, almost three months later, Oakland officials claim the city billed the Warriors on July 19 but the owners have not honored the August 18 repayment deadline. Making matters worse is that Oakland claims the team has not fully repaid the cost of the 2015 NBA Championship parade either.

This isn’t just a bad look, or bad business. It’s just plain bad — especially for Oakland residents who have suffered for years under the duress of a weak economy and city budget struggles that have compromised municipal services and let important infrastructure fall into ruin.

The Oakland City Council’s recent two-year budget included cuts to affordable housing initiatives, job creation, homeless services, parks, recreation programs, and very necessary sanitation services. To balance the budget, the council even had to reduce funding of a police academy and totally eliminate a fire academy and and “illegal dumping cleanup crew.”

Some may say that Oakland’s municipal problems are not the Warriors’ concern, that they are glad the team is moving to the much more prosperous San Francisco Bay. But this view is ridiculously short-sighted considering that all appearances point to the Golden State Warriors contributing somewhat to Oakland’s struggles.

Yes, the Warriors are known for exemplary work in the community, especially with youth education. But these gestures mean diddly squat if the team is also looting the city in other important areas.

What’s the point of providing inner-city school children with after-school academic programs if, for example, faulty wiring in an old building causes a fire that kills them all? No fire academy means no new firefighters who, obviously, are essential to public safety.

A production like this ain’t cheap.

Golden State Warriors Victory Parade And Rally
Warriors celebrate 2017 NBA Championship with Victory Parade and Rally on June 15, 2017 in Oakland.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

According to reporting by Darwin BondGraham with East Bay Express, the Golden State Warriors incurred the following expenses for championship parades (2015, 2017) and, so far, has not repaid the city of Oakland:

  • $815,896: June 2017 parade cost — payment is 19 days past due
  • $244,278: June 2015 parade cost — outstanding cost of police overtime and labor performed by public works crews

“In all, the city claims that the Warriors owe $1,060,174 for the 2015 and 2017 parades,” BondGraham reports.

According to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, the Warriors are contesting some of the charges — mostly, those related to police security.

Team owners Lacob and Peter Guber are not stupid men. If they were, they would not be where they are: exemplars for what successful professional sports-team ownership looks like. However, the team is likely very concerned with the bottom line, given its overspending following the 2016-17 season, including $201 million to Stephen Curry alone.

One would assume Lacob and Guber understand that police security is not free. Moreover, it seems they would value this security — no matter the cost — to protect their assets: franchise players, with multi-million-dollar salaries.

Police undoubtedly helped to keep the parade attendees safe, but Karen Boyd, spokesperson for the Oakland city administrator, stated in an email to Easy Bay Express:

“[R]ecent terrorist attacks against crowds in other cities prompted Oakland to take greater precautions at the last minute. This drove up the overall cost of the event as more employees were asked to work overtime shifts to set up barriers and detours. It may have also contributed to the spending above and beyond the city’s original estimate.”

According to East Bay Express, Oakland municipal records detail security-related charges as follows:

  • Unreported: Overtime for “588 officers and civilian employees” who provided security
  • $313,372: Police labor
  • $39,441: Police department vehicle rentals
  • $1,540: Bottled water
  • $257,909: Wages to 153 public works employees who set everything up before the parade, took everything down after it, and cleaned the eight-mile parade route that had been filled with a crowd of one million people — imagine that task!
  • $28,000: Repairs of damaged landscaping “trampled around Lake Merritt and several parks in downtown Oakland” by the public works department
  • $189,507: Wages for 114 firefighters and other fire department workers
  • $11,970: Wages for paramedics on standby to help injured or ill attendees

A history of looting the city?

Although Oakland Mayor Schaaf feels confident the Warriors will honor its commitment to pay the entirety of expenses incurred by the city — stating, “the Warriors have given us no reason to doubt they will honor their commitments” — perhaps she should be at least a little worried, for two troubling reasons:

  1. No contracts were signed between the Warriors and the city of Oakland; and
  2. The Warriors organization stated it would not continue paying “$7.5 million per year to retire debt on the Oracle Arena,” which would leave “the city and Alameda County on the hook for tens of millions of dollars to pay off bonds floated to refurbish the Arena in the 1990’s” for the team.

The city plans to hire legal counsel to sort out the the debt on Oracle Arena and, perhaps — even though no legal documents were signed — Mayor Schaaf should pursue legal action for full recompense of city funds used to host the 2015 and 2017 championship parades.

Warriors players and coaches seem like good people. After all, Kevin Durant took a $10-million pay cut to help bring back players like Andre Iguodala and David West. And it is hard to imagine that Stephen Curry would feel great about his $201-million contract if he knew it came at the expense of Oakland residents.

Because limited funds to help the homeless, reductions in budgets to police and sanitation departments — on top of the forthcoming loss of a lucrative sports franchise in 2019, when the Warriors will flee to a posher nearby city — does just that.

And who knows how many people will experience employment insecurity when there no longer are a few games per week at Oracle Arena, for several months of the year.

It would be exploitative of Joe Lacob and Peter Guber not to pony up the cash to repay Oakland for parade-related expenses. This matter is dire for Oakland. But even if this matter was taking place in a city in better financial shape — say, San Francisco — honoring the promise to repay all expenses would still be the right thing to do.

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