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Don’t do to Columbus what the NBA did to Seattle

It’s not too late to stop the relocation madness.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew SC
Charter Member #1, the league shouldn’t turn its back on that history.
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes a community is blessed with a local owner, or an out-of-towner, who truly loves them. They don’t just spend the money, but they live the culture that is captured when sports and cities connect. Seattle has been blessed with that at various times. With the Seattle Sounders both Joe Roth and Adrian Hanauer do this fairly well. The opposite end of this spectrum is something we are too familiar with — the Seattle SuperSonics’ situation.

Now, in MLS that sports travesty seems ready to be repeated. Anthony Precourt held clandestine meetings to get the Columbus Crew SC to Austin. It feels inevitable. It feels wrong.

It feels wrong for everyone, mostly for those who support the Crew, but also for anyone who has lived through a relocation.

MLS has the power to stop this. By nature of their single-entity structure the league offices are more powerful in MLS than the other North American leagues. It is up to them to stop this rogue owner who is trying to move the team to a city that doesn’t really seem to want them while rejecting local ownership options.

This entire scenario pains me. It pains me because the Crew were the first MLS team I paid any attention to. I loved following Brian McBride’s journey from middle America to England.

It pains me because I used to work for the Sonics and the NBA, producing the radio broadcasts and loading highlights onto the league access system. I did this while the Ackerley Group and Schultz’s group owned the team.

The potential Crew move pains me because I once filled my car with “Not In Our House” placards, many hundred of them.

This move brings up memories of all the efforts that local business leaders and media made to Save Our Sonics. Precourt’s horrible broadcasting deal reminds me of what Clay Bennett did to Seattle, shoving the radio play-by-play onto a low-wattage conservative talk station.

It pains me because if Precourt gets his way he is destroying the legacies of Brian McBride, Brad Friedel, Stern John, Chad Marshall, Sigi Schmid and many, many more. Just as Bennett corrupted the history of The Glove, Reign Man, Downtown Freddy Brown, Mac10, Jack Sikma, George Karl, and so many others, Precourt’s desired move to Austin destroys that.

He desires to destroy more than just player and coaching legacies. His end goal destroys the legacy of Lamar Hunt. You may know Hunt as the name attached to the U.S. Open Cup. Columbus, and the other early MLS cities, know Hunt as the man who kept the league alive, who dreamed of soccer stadia around the country and managed to get a small market in Ohio to believe when so few others did.

Anthony Precourt’s dream is one of destruction. He is not a builder. He is not a dreamer. He is a destroyer.

Don Garber and the other investor-operators can stop this madness. They can keep history alive. They should absolutely reject Precourt’s nightmare-ish scenario. Do not make the mistake that David Stern made. Find a local owner and return the Crew to the people who deserve it, the fans who believed when America did not.

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