Sports Outside the Beltway

Attempted Injunction to Keep Penguins

Well some new characters are getting involved in the fight over the Pittsburgh Penguins, this time a local businessman and Democrat politician are trying to use the court to limit the rights of a business owner.

A local business owner and a former Allegheny County commissioner plan to seek a court injunction today to give county residents the right to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins rather than let them relocate.

The idea, said former Democratic County Commissioner Mike Dawida, is to give Penguins fans sort of a right of first refusal. Because the public has invested tax money in the team — $10 million in Regional Asset District money paid for high-rent club seating 10 years ago, for example — it ought to get a chance to purchase the franchise before it is allowed to leave, he said.

“We put at least $10 million into the team, plus there’s (Mellon) arena itself,” which was built with public money, said Dawida, a candidate for city controller. He said he wants to keep this effort separate from politics.

“Raising the money is the easy part. The (legal) precedent-setting and all those kinds of things, that’s the difficult part.”

They’ll have to convince a county judge that the Penguins’ acceptance of public money makes the public a stakeholder in the team. The effort would also require overturning a rule adopted by National Hockey League owners that bars public ownership of a team, they said.

“It will change all of sports, if we win,” Dawida said. “Every city will adopt this.”

The first thing is their plan would break league rules, which makes it unlikely to happen. They are attempting to attach strings to money already spent and allocated by punishing them for fulfilling their lease obligations and doing what they feel is best for their business. Beyond that you can’t simply apply the theory “that the Penguins’ acceptance of public money makes the public a stakeholder in the team,” to a sports franchise alone. By the logic that accepting public money means the public is a stakeholder would mean that any tax payer should have the right to tell any person or entity accepting public money what they should do. I’m sure that small business, homeowner, etc would who took government aid would love that idea. I would also suspect that Mr. Dawida is using this as a ploy to get himself some votes, but of course no politician has every done something stupid to get votes…

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