Seattle Supersonics Co-Owner Fined Big

SEATTLE (AP) -- The NBA fined SuperSonics co-owner Aubrey McClendon $250,000 two weeks after he said his group didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle.

The league confirmed the penalty, and spokesman Tim Frank said Thursday night the NBA would have no further comment. The comments of McClendon, an Oklahoma City energy tycoon, were at odds with commissioner David Stern's stated hope of keeping the Sonics in the city they've called home for all 40 years of their existence.

McClendon is one of four original partners with Clay Bennett in Professional Basketball Club LLC, the Oklahoma group that purchased the Sonics and WNBA's Storm for $350 million in July 2006. McClendon told an Oklahoma City newspaper earlier this month that the group has always hoped to move the NBA franchise to Oklahoma, but acknowledged the team could make more money in the Pacific Northwest.

"But we didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle; we hoped to come here," McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, told The Journal Record in Oklahoma. "We know it's a little more difficult financially here in Oklahoma City, but we think it's great for the community and if we could break even, we'd be thrilled."

The fine was previously reported by various Seattle media outlets.

The ownership group has set a deadline of Oct. 31 to secure an agreement for a new arena in the Seattle area. If a deal is not in place by then, Bennett has said he will begin the process of relocating the Sonics to Oklahoma City.

McClendon's fine is comparable to those the NBA has assessed to Mark Cuban, the outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Cuban was fined twice during the 2006 playoffs, with the league penalizing him $250,000 after his outbursts during the finals, when he yelled toward a referee and later toward Stern.

Cuban, who says he matches every dollar with a charitable donation, was fined $500,000 -- at the time the most against one person in the NBA -- in January 2002 for comments that included saying he wouldn't hire the league's head of officiating to manage a Dairy Queen.

A spokesman for McClendon at Chesapeake Energy in Oklahoma City said McClendon's fine by the NBA is not a company issue and referred questions to the Sonics' ownership group. Brent Gooden, a spokesman for the ownership group, declined comment.

Bennett and McClendon tried to calm the furor in Seattle the day after McClendon's comments were published. They issued a joint statement that called McClendon's comments his "personal thoughts." Bennett said McClendon was "not speaking on behalf of the ownership group."

"It is my hope we will see a breakthrough in the next 60 days that will result in securing a new arena for the Sonics and Storm in the Greater Seattle area," Bennett said.


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