Whether or not the Hornets win Game 6 tonight at the Hive (essential pre-game info here), the fate of New Orleans' second basketball franchise remains in limbo. David Stern has recently said that the NBA — which purchased the team back in October 2010 — is in no hurry to sell the Hornets and is still actively pursuing local investors.
Fans of the team must feel helpless at a time like this. No matter how much merchandise or tickets they buy, the ultimate decision about where the Hornets will play next season is not up to them.
Or is it? An organization called GroupGain has launched "Buy Dem Hornets", an effort to get as many Hornets fans to pool their resources and buy a significant minority stake in the team.
What is GroupGain?
GroupGain is a new social e-commerce platform where everyone wins. It allows people to aggregate others who want the same product in order to lower prices for the consumers while allowing the merchant to profit on increased volume.
GroupGain's Community Manager, Neil Soni, said that they believe if enough Hornets fans get together to buy 10% to 25% of the team, the NBA and local investors will take enough notice to keep the Hornets in New Orleans. They also said that they'd donate half of the companies regular commission to local charities (though none specifically have been named).
This would be an unprecedented step for an NBA franchise (then again, so was the league buying the team) but it's an idea with tangible roots. The Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers are the only completely fan-owned, not-for-profit team in American sports. Obviously, the NFL isn't quick to mention that right now, but the Packers have been a model of success, winning nine NFL championships (before the NFL-AFL merger) and four Super Bowls.
Most importantly, the Packers achieved all this success in tiny Green Bay (pop. 104,057) and, were it not for the public ownership, you can bet this team would have moved away to a larger market long ago.
Buy Dem Hornets is hoping to get a similar result with the Hornets. Soni said it starts with getting the word out and have people "call their political representatives (including the governor, mayor, and local congresspeople) as well as contact the NBA to apply pressure in allowing the deal."
Right now, the process is still very much in its early stages (GroupGain is still in the process of going through the NBA bylaws to see how to properly organize a partial public ownership of the franchise) and there's no telling if David Stern would ever allow something like this. But for Hornets' fans, it's a positive step and tangible step they can make to keep their team in New Orleans.
If you crunch the numbers, the task is pretty daunting. The Hornets are worth roughly $300 million (that's what the NBA paid for the franchise) meaning, if Buy Dem Hornets wants to reach their goal of a 25% ownership stake, fans would have to raise $75 million to buy a significant minority share. But if you take into account that the Packers have over 100,000 shareholders, you can see how spreading the costs around could actually make this work.
GroupGain's idea is based on the fact that they don't believe the NBA can "afford to lose 1 million NBA fans". When you look at the numbers like that, $75 from each Hornets' fan could ensure that the franchise's future is secured in the Big Easy.
But regardless of whether or not the plan actually comes to fruition, Buy Dem Hornets is hoping that, if Hornets fans come out against moving the team in large numbers and have money to support their cause, their collective voices will be heard by the NBA.
We wish them luck.
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