League of Fans

Founded by Ralph Nader, League of Fans is a sports reform project working to improve sports by increasing awareness of the sports industry's relationship to society, exposing irresponsible business practices, ensuring accountability to fans, and encouraging the industry to contribute to societal well-being.

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We often think of sports as outside the realm of everyday citizen concern. But the many benefits to society that sports can provide are sometimes undermined by a different set of values, often based on the quest for higher and higher profits at the expense of fans, taxpayers, communities, culture and social justice.

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League of Fans to Cavs' Owner: Don't Abandon the Rockers!

Today, the sports industry watchdog League of Fans sent a letter to Gordon Gund, owner of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and WNBA's Cleveland Rockers, urging him to reconsider last week's decision to suspend operations of the Rockers. The announcement comes as another recent blow to women's professional sports which are struggling to secure the needed financial support to promote growth, and are undergoing cuts in operations. It is unclear at this point whether the Rockers will fold, be purchased by a new owner that will keep them in Cleveland, or purchased by a new owner and relocated. The letter follows:


Gordon Gund
Owner and Chairperson
Cavs / Gund Arena Company
1 Center Court
Cleveland, OH 44115

Dear Mr. Gund,

The Sept. 19 announcement confirming the rumors that you are suspending operations of the Cleveland Rockers of the Women's National Basketball Association is disheartening and League of Fans urges you to reconsider.

League of Fans is a sports industry watchdog project founded by Ralph Nader. Among the broad range of issues in sports that we work to influence for the better are eliminating obstacles that prevent girls and women, whether youth, amateur or professional, from reaching their full potential in opportunity, participation and respect in sports.

Along those lines, we are writing to express the sentiments of many people across the country who are concerned with the overall lack of investment in women's professional sports. There is a general sense that the only real financial backing of women's sports takes place when there is short-term private gain. This makes your abandonment of the Rockers very painful for many who have worked so hard and expected so little in return to help the growth of women's professional sports.

At a time when you are fortunate enough to have drafted and signed LeBron James to play for the Cavaliers thereby increasing the turnout and ensuring the revenue windfall that you've been dreaming of, you have decided to turn your back on the many enthusiastic fans in greater Cleveland who have supported the Rockers over the last seven years.

We will not argue with your contention that the Rockers failed to increase your bottom line, but was short-term profitability really the only reason you owned the team in the first place? Whatever losses you've incurred from owning and operating the Rockers are surely a drop in the bucket in comparison with your investment in the Cavs, and is certainly worth continuing your support for the pioneering players of the Rockers who have had such an important relationship as role models to countless young girls in Northeastern Ohio.

When making this decision, you should not have forgotten what the public has done for you financially. The corporate welfare you received from area taxpayers that met your demands and subsidized the cost of the new arena in Cleveland that displays your name, and your sweetheart lease deal and the loopholes which allow you to charge Cleveland for some of the arena maintenance expenses that you rightfully (if not legally) owe. Despite the heavy public cost for Gund Arena that allows it to meet your exclusive business needs and excesses, in turn causing the arena to become a drain on Cleveland's general fund and public schools, you ignore the generosity of the public as if you deserve this special treatment.

The Cavs suddenly have a national buzz and have become a high-demand ticket. Why would you abandon the Rockers when Cleveland has this kind of basketball excitement? In addition to the loyal fan base already established for women's professional basketball in Cleveland (a largely untapped source of revenue for you prior to the Rockers), you could advertise the Rockers at sold out Cavs games and increase sales of Rockers' apparel at those sellouts as well. The team would also get a boost from basketball-hungry fans who can't get a ticket for a Cavs game or from fans who appreciate the Rockers as a less expensive alternative to which they can take their families during a different season.

Mr. Gund, now is the time to increase and expand your support of the Cleveland Rockers, not eliminate them. However, if you remain determined to sever your ties with the WNBA and the women's professional basketball fans of the Cleveland area, will you at the very least work to make the environment smooth for a new owner for the Rockers in Cleveland and resist the urge to block or profit from such a transaction?

If indeed the Rockers are not retained by you, hopefully new ownership would be more passionate and committed to the strong grassroots marketing needed to supplement the Rockers talented players who have been so committed to selling their league to the public and promoting the many benefits of sports participation, both professional and amateur, to Cleveland area girls and women.


Shawn McCarthy
League of Fans

Val Ackerman, WNBA President


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