To boycott or not? An interview with Carmichael Dave on the latest twist in the Sacramento Kings saga
When news broke that Mayor Kevin Johnson’s "Plan B" for the arena was officially dead, The Sacramento Press reached out to a group of local writers and thinkers who’ve been following the issue to get their thoughts. First on the list was Dave Weiglein, better known as Carmichael Dave, the unofficial mascot of the Kings fanbase, and the organizer of last year’s impressive, but ultimately quixotic grassroots campaign for a new arena, "Here We Build." He’s currently producing his own Internet radio network at www.thecdnetworks.com.
Next week we’ll have interviews with James Ham of Cowbell Kingdom, Isaac Gonzalez of ranSACedmedia, and Cosmo Garvin of Sacramento News & Review. Carmichael Dave, Ham and Gonzalez will be joining us for video chats after noon on Tuesday. [Update: It's shaping up to be a debate between Carmichael Dave and Isaac Gonzalez. We'll broadcast it live at noon on Tuesday.]
Here’s the interview, which was conducted on Tuesday afternoon:
The Sacramento Press: You’ve been positive on Twitter since the announcement – What are your thoughts on the mayor’s announcement that “Plan B” has failed?
Carmichael Dave: It makes me want to vomit. It’s a joke until you actually sit back and look at what happened. The fact that the will of the people combined with a truly grassroots effort has not been done. I think we all have a pretty decent idea where the blame lays. It can be spread, but I don’t care about blame. I care about the same thing I cared about over a year ago when we started "Here We Build," and all the other grassroots efforts – to get it done. Sacramento has gone from being a true fairy tale story for the rest of the country to smile at to a public joke for the rest of the county to laugh at. People can try to spin it all they want: It’s a fucking joke…
SP: David Stern has said some encouraging things recently about the Kings and Sacramento. Does that give you hope?
CD: David Stern speaks in riddles and he’s always done that – that’s how he is. He is a gatekeeper. Stern is the commissioner of the NBA, and is basically a representative of the owners of the NBA – he is their advocate – yet David Stern has done an unprecedented thing by coming out and all but saying, “Hooray for the city of Sacramento, you guys are awesome, and the Kings’ ownership is a total embarrassment.” And he’s pretty much said that – that being said, David Stern doesn’t have 30 votes in his pocket. David Stern is an adviser to the other owners that do have those votes.
If I, as a citizen of Sacramento, thought that the answer was to simply bully the Maloofs dry, then we’d have a boycott starting tomorrow, but we are on a teeter-totter, looking over a cliff, and nobody is talking to anybody – everybody is posturing, and it needs to stop. Somebody has to step up, put their ego aside, and have the balls to say, “Listen, this is our end game, how do we get there?" and put everybody in the same room, but right now you’ve got millionaires and politicians that are all playing grabass, trying to save face. I’d say we are right back where we were a year and a half ago, but here’s the difference: There’s been a lot of blood, sweat, tears and public proclamation since a year and a half ago, so in a way we’re kind of in a worse spot, but the bottom line is that Sacramento still has the Kings. There have been public statements, most recently by one of the owners, Joe Maloof, that they’re not moving, they’re staying in Sacramento, so there are tools to work with.
But when I make that statement, “there are tools to work with,” it’s double-sided. There are tools to work with, but the people of Sacramento are being forced to work with a bunch of tools. They need to figure it out, or we’ll make them figure it out with our wallets and our votes. The city right now is a fucking firecracker, getting ready to explode, and all it takes is a starting gun. We can turn this into a really positive venture or everybody can get their hands held up into a big giant, angry hate fest, and it’s up to the leaders of both this city and this basketball team to decide which way that’s going to go.
SP: But in the face of that, you still think it’s going to get done?
CD: I do think it’s going to get done because the city has put too much on the line, and for the first time in my life here – 36 years – the city has gone out of its way and actually cut through the red tape and created a road to actually spending money and investing in itself, and that’s a miracle, and the city needs to be commended for that. On the other hand, you’ve got the Maloofs, who have pretty much pissed away all the good will they’ve ever had in this town, that any sort of [move] that translates into a [decrease of] public support and dollars spent is going to be catastrophic to their bottom line.
So, it’s not like you’re dealing with Bill Gates on one side and Warren Buffet on the other – you’re dealing with people in the city who have very limited political capital to begin with, and you’re dealing with the owners of the Kings that have very little capital, period, to deal with. Somebody is going to have to move. There is going to have to be an intermediary, a third party, somebody that’s going to bring these guys together and, ultimately, either the Maloofs come forward and say, “You know what, make a couple of minor changes and let’s restart this thing,” or somebody is going to have to facilitate a transfer of the team to new ownership that comes in and gets to be a conquering hero and white knight, and says let’s restart this thing.
Either way, that’s going to have to happen because the status quo is not going to cut it with the city, and they will again answer with their dollars and their votes and their wrath, and neither side can afford to deal with that.
SP: The question going forward is – Will the people start to get discouraged? Are they still going to keep that energy in this kind of environment?
CD: I can tell you from my perspective that I have no lack of an energy reservoir when it comes to this, and I don’t care if we have to start over 12 times. It’s going to happen, but there needs to be some maneuvering behind the scenes, so that when things are done, or announced or talked about, that it’s a united front with several groups…
I’m just trying to take the temperature of both sides, since I do have the advantage of having both sides that will pick up the phone when I call, and then just try to see where we’re at, look at the landscape, and consult with the other grassroots people and entities and see what needs to happen. Is it a waiting game? Do we play it positive? The other avenue, which, really, is becoming more and more clear to me every day, probably, is going to end up being "scorched earth" – tickets, boycott, just flat-out scorn, and really, just an all-out torches and pitchforks towards Arco Arena to try and change ownership. That’s where it’s headed right now. I really don’t want it to head that way, and I’m doing everything I can to stop it, but you’re not hearing anything from the white towers in Las Vegas, and that’s a problem.
SP: But do you think that the Maloofs could use a boycott as an excuse to leave Sacramento?
CD: Yes, I do, and that’s the only reason it hasn’t happened yet. As I said, you’re getting messages and code from David Stern that are really kinda, reinforcing Sacramento’s commitment, but the fear is if you boycott the team, you boycott the Maloofs, and they are able to go to the NBA, which was not receptive to a move before and say, “Listen, this market has completely turned on us, and we can’t make a profit. This is our team. We should have the right to make a profit. We can’t do it here"… and the NBA says, “You know what? We don’t want a legal battle. You’re right, why don’t you go to Seattle?” That’s the scary thing.
At some point, there’s going to be a leap of faith – one way or the other. Either you’re going to take a leap of faith as a fan base and say, “We don’t want to sit around and do nothing as a city and as a fan base – we have to do something – so we’re going to take a shot at doing this, hoping that the Maloofs sell the team,” or you take a leap of faith and say, “Alright, we just have to have the chips fall where they may, and we hope that the Maloofs end up not being able to run this team long-term and they have to sell anyway,” or they end up going back to the table and realizing the arena deal is the best way to go. Either way it’s a gamble. It’s just a question as to what’s the best gamble to make.