(coming to celeb row, Newark, 2010)
What exactly does it take to get disqualified as a NBA owner? Oklahoma City’s thumbheaded owner Clay Bennett bought his team with the intention of moving it from one city to another, while doing a sorry imitation of someone not trying to do just that, and cruised to owner-board approval with ease. True, Bennett is apparently good buddies with commissioner David Stern — they’re reading Cold Mountain in their book club, maybe? — but his crudity and dishonesty were written all over his giant boiled-ham face from the moment he came on the scene. Obviously crudity is not enough to disqualify someone as a sports team’s owner — there are limits to this, but generally — but surely there’s some outer boundary, right?
What or where this boundary might be we don’t really know, yet. You can be a nightmarishly vain, bigoted slumlord and own a NBA team, and crimes against music are obviously not a disqualifier, but presumably — just to take an example at random — violating United States trade sanctions against a nation accused of human rights abuses is over the line, right?
Yes, you’d presume that. Here’s Dave D’Alessandro in the Newark Star-Ledger:
Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-Passaic) has fired the first political torpedo aimed at Mikhail™s Prokhorov™s purchase of the Nets, and it is directed at the Russian™s business relationship with the corrupt and repressive government of Zimbabwe.
Pascrell, admittedly opposed to the Nets™ move to Brooklyn in two years, has asked the Treasury Department to investigate the ties between Prokhorov™s corporation, Onexim, with the African nation, which has been under U.S. sanctions for seven years for human-rights violations.
It is a violation of federal law for American citizens and companies or their subsidiaries to do business with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.
Of course, Prokhorov isn’t an American citizen. And double-of-course this sadly probably isn’t going to do anything to impact the creepy oligarch’s ownership of the Nets or the development of Bruce Ratner’s redevelopment of South Brooklyn — architecture critics have already dubbed the ambitious underhaul “Little Tampa,” at least in my mind. It’ll take a lot more than dealing with the monster who absolutely shredded the country he helped create to disqualify a very rich man from buying a franchise in the NBA. The difficult part is coming up with what that could possibly be, short of not having enough money.