10 Fanbases That Deserve Better

Laura Depta@lauradeptaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2017

10 Fanbases That Deserve Better

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    Football fans in San Diego deserved better, didn't they? They deserved better than to suffer through two decades without a Super Bowl appearance and then be abandoned for refusing to finance a new stadium. 

    Many fans across sports devote significant time and energy to their teams. It would be nice if they could all be rewarded with wins, but of course, that's not always realistic. 

    One could argue all fans of losing teams deserve better. But these 10 fanbases—they really deserve better. These fans have dealt with relocation drama, internal dysfunction and even lawsuits.

    And look, they're not even all losing teams (hey, Oakland Raiders), but each fanbase has dealt with some serious headaches from ownership or management in the recent past. 

    Hey sports team owners, maybe don't sue your own fans, eh?

    Anyway, to the following 10 fanbases: Hang in there. If the Chicago Cubs can win the World Series, then maybe KG was right.

Miami Marlins

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    Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has never exactly had a fan-friendly reputation. He did, after all, gut the team, fire-sale style, in 2012 right after accepting millions in public funding for a new stadium.

    Jonah Keri of CBS Sports wrote in December, "The Marlins have lost an average of 90 games in the five years since Marlins Park opened for business, finishing below .500 every year. And the hits keep on coming. Loria's team continues to pocket tens of millions of dollars a year in revenue-sharing money, despite playing in the eighth-largest metropolitan area in America."

    Oh, and in May, Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times reported the Marlins actually sued several former season-ticket holders and two stadium vendors. That Loria, what a guy. 

    Now it appears Loria might be considering a parting of ways. Mike Ozanian of Forbes reported Loria is willing to consider offers for the Marlins, starting at $1.7 billion, well over twice what Forbes valued the franchise at in March. 

    Fans in Miami might actually welcome a new owner, but until then, they certainly deserve better.

Cleveland Browns

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    The Cleveland Browns haven't suffered a stadium or relocation controversy since Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore in 1996, but the fans still deserve better.

    Sure, a lot of that has to do with the losing. The Browns haven't posted a winning season since 2007 and went just 1-15 in 2016, a franchise worst. In October, Samer Kalaf of Deadspin called the team a "sick joke."

    The one-win season came after an offseason Pro Football Focus graded a B-plus. The Browns got Robert Griffin III, a new head coach in Hue Jackson and a whole bunch of draft picks from the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Still, the season was so bad, owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam wrote in a letter to the fans, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, "You deserve the best. ... We're sorry that our results have not been better."

    The Browns will have the No. 1 and No. 12 picks in the 2017 NFL draft, but it's hard to be optimistic considering they have parted ways with all six of their first-round draft picks from 2011-2014.

    Lindsey Foltin of Fox Sports wrote, "If you thought the Cleveland Browns' draft history couldn't get any more embarrassing, you were wrong. Known for being one of the most dysfunctional organizations in the NFL—if not the most—the Browns always are awarded high first-round picks based on their awful records."

    So it's not just about the losing with the Browns. It's about the dysfunction.

Nottingham Forest FC

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    Nottingham Forest FC is a second-tier English football club currently teetering at the edge of relegation. On top of that, the relationship between fans and owner Fawaz Al Hasawi is tumultuous, to say the least. 

    Michael Butler of the Guardian explained in mid-January, "Hasawi bought Nottingham Forest in 2012 with high hopes of promotion to the Premier League. However, the club have stagnated and currently lie in 20th place in the Championship, just two points above the relegation zone."

    He added, "The club's manager, Philippe Montanier, was appointed in the summer and is the eighth different head coach to serve under Hasawi's tenure."

    Fans were also frustrated with the sale of talented young midfielder Oliver Burke, a move that seemed to surprise even him.

    And they were further irked when a proposed takeover deal fell through in January. Richard Antcliff, chair of the club's supporters trust, said, per BBC News, "There's lots of angry fans and rightly so. We need to galvanise, put the pressure on Fawaz [Al Hasawi] in a respectful way to say 'give us some of these answers, your ideas'."

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    In January, the Arizona Diamondbacks filed a lawsuit against Maricopa County in an attempt to break their stadium lease early. (Currently, the team is required to remain at Chase Field until 2028.)

    The lawsuit comes on the heels of a longstanding dispute over who is financially responsible for $187 million worth of necessary repairs to Chase Field.

    Important fact: Maricopa County residents ponied up $238 million in public funding for the stadium in 1998.

    Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic wrote, "Now, the team is demanding $187 million in upgrades and repairs between now and 2028, lest its players are forced to endure something less than state of the art. Sort of like baseball fans did in 2016, most every time the D-backs took the field. But I digress."

    Maricopa County Board Chairman Clint Hickman said, per Brahm Resnik of KPNX, "It is disappointing the Diamondbacks are suing their fans who helped build Chase Field."

    Not only is the team, in a way, suing its own fans, but it is also seeking a resolution that will allow it to potentially abandon Chase Field early. Real nice.

San Francisco 49ers

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    Speaking of lawsuits, the San Francisco 49ers sued Santa Clara, home of Levi's Stadium, in January. Unlike the Arizona Diamondbacks, it's not about breaking a lease; rather, the team alleges city officials falsely accused it of contract violations.

    Ramona Giwargis of the Mercury News explained, "The lawsuit—filed Friday in Santa Clara County Superior Court—is the latest salvo in an escalating war between the football team and its home city. It's a blistering feud that has included accusations of lying, withholding records and misusing public funds."

    Levi's Stadium opened in 2014. John Cote of the San Francisco Chronicle reported the final cost was $1.27 billion, partially funded by taxpayers.

    So not only are the 49ers coming off a 2-14 season and embroiled in a general manager and coaching search, but they are also dealing with an "escalating war" with their own city and an unpopular CEO.

    Mike Lupica of Sports on Earth wrote in January, "Here is how the San Francisco 49ers, once one of the proudest and most successful franchises in NFL history, have become another Animal House of their sport: by putting a boy prince like Jed York in charge of things."

    Not the best.

Seattle Basketball Fans

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    Seattle basketball fans deserved better when Clay Bennett yanked their team away in 2008, and they deserve better than an NBA-less city now.

    Uncertainty reigns regarding the potential return of pro basketball, however. In May, the Seattle City Council voted against part of developer Chris Hansen's plan to build a new arena in the city's Sodo District.

    Now fans are dealing with conflicting reports about potential NBA expansion. And in November, SiriusXM NBA Radio reported NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he wasn't sure expansion "is the right direction to go."

    There is reason for hope, however. There is an April 12 deadline to submit proposals for the renovation of Key Arena, former home of the SuperSonics. Per Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, two groups plan to submit proposals, and Hansen also intends to submit a revised plan for a privately funded arena in the Sodo District.

    There is no denying the passion of Seattle basketball fans. Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie called the departure of the SuperSonics "one of the great crimes in the league's history."

    Bottom line: Seattle deserves a basketball team.

St. Louis Rams

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    Stan Kroenke might just rival Clay Bennett in the "shady relocation" department.

    It's not so much that Bennett moved the Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma City, and it's not that Kroenke moved the St. Louis Rams back to Los Angeles. It's how they did it.

    In Kroenke's case, St. Louis approved a new stadium plan—including $150 million in public funding—before he moved the team anyway.

    Not only that, but he actually insulted St. Louis in his application for relocation to L.A. One line read, per Christine Brennan of USA Today, "Compared to all other U.S. cities, St. Louis is struggling." Ouch.

    And when Kroenke finally did take his talents to California, he left St. Louis taxpayers holding the bag on a stadium loan with $36 million left to pay off.

    The cherry on top? The L.A. Rams mistakenly sent a promotional merchandise email to former St. Louis season-ticket holders in July.

    No fanbase deserves any of that.

Atlanta Braves

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    Originally built for the 1996 Olympic Games, Turner Field opened as a baseball stadium in downtown Atlanta in 1997. Just 20 years later, the former home of the Atlanta Braves will be demolished.

    In 2013, the Braves announced plans to build a new stadium, a $672 million project that would be partially supported by public funding. The new SunTrust Park is scheduled to open in 2017. 

    So the Braves abandoned a relatively new stadium to move to new digs, partly on the taxpayers' dime? Hmm.

    Patrick Redford of Deadspin noted a resulting raise in taxes for public parks and also wrote, "The Braves' new stadium out in the suburbs of Cobb County—whose taxpayers are giving the team $400 million to build the traffic-clogging ballpark—is a textbook case in all the lies and exploitation at the heart of the modern public stadium financing scheme."

    Neil DeMause of Vice Sports called it "an all-around train wreck of the highest order."

    And the kicker. In January, Dan Klepal and Meris Lutz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the Braves are seeking $14 million more from taxpayers "for roads, walkways and other pedestrian improvements at the team's new stadium." Cool.

Oakland Raiders

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    The Golden State Warriors are moving back to San Francisco, a real bummer for an Oakland fanbase that has supported them for over four decades.

    However, when it comes to the real woes of Oakland fans, the football team deserves much of the blame—specifically, recently, owner Mark Davis.

    Fans endured one move to Los Angeles from 1982-1994, and in early 2016, Davis tried to take them back. Three teams applied for relocation to L.A. for the 2016 season, but only the Rams were outright approved. Fans in Oakland would get to keep their team for at least one more year.

    Almost immediately, rumors of a move to Las Vegas began. Davis even pledged $500 million for a new stadium there. In January, the team officially filed the relocation paperwork. According to NFL.com, owners can vote on the matter as early as March, but the team wouldn't likely move until 2020.

    Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee pointed out the audacity of that and wrote, "Raiders owner Mark Davis has a lot of nerve. His tone-deaf behavior is nothing short of outrageous. While relocating his NFL franchise to Las Vegas, he wants the team to remain in the Coliseum until the new stadium is constructed in southern Nevada."

San Diego Chargers

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    The San Diego Chargers applied for relocation to Los Angeles in January 2016. Though the Rams were the only team immediately approved, the Chargers were given a one-year window to join them.

    In November, San Diego residents overwhelmingly rejected a new downtown stadium plan that would have required substantial public funding.  

    In January, chairman Dean Spanos announced the team would move to L.A. and eventually join the Rams in a new Inglewood stadium.

    So Spanos moved a team that hasn't won double-digit games in seven years because city residents didn't want to pay over $1 billion for a new stadium? Classy.

    Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post reported San Diego and the Chargers/NFL were about $450 million-$550 million apart on the stadium talks. He wrote, "But rather than make up that difference (and allow the city to use that money instead for things that matter, like roads and schools and police salaries), Spanos decided instead on the move to L.A. and the staggering $650 million relocation fee that comes with it."

    The news wasn't exactly well-received among fans, and who can blame them?