East Bay Corporate Support is Plenty Strong Enough

Two important things got lost amidst the excitement that most A’s fans felt after the May 3 press conference at Clorox, where company CEO Don Knauss invited A’s owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff to negotiate with Oakland leaders for a new ballpark or sell the team to someone who will.

1) The list is of Oakland/East Bay corporations that want to support the A’s with their cold hard cash is impressive and wide-ranging;
2) And it’s painfully obvious that those same corporations have been ignored by Wolff and Fisher since they became owners in 2005.

It’s all there in Knauss’ recent interview with KQED’s Nina Thorsen, an excellent journalist and an avid A’s fan. Knauss said:

“Two-and-a-half years ago, some 45 companies in the East Bay committed to being corporate sponsors and put over a million dollars in escrow as sort of a down payment on sponsorships — things like marketing programs, seat licenses, luxury suite commitments.  Anything to demonstrate to the current ownership that we as the business community were very committed to keeping the A’s here.” 

That’s right, major East Bay corporations such as Clorox, Kaiser, Safeway, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Cost Plus, Pandora and about 40 others are willing to spend money on luxury suites for A’s games, but also want to be part of a long-term solution by helping the franchise build a new A’s stadium in Oakland. That’s music to the ears of any long-suffering A’s fan. And perhaps most importantly, it illustrates that there is plenty of corporate support to keep the franchise prosperous — currently at the Coliseum and at a new Oakland ballpark in the future.

But what really caught our attention was the next quote from Knauss:

Now we really haven’t had any meaningful discussions with the current ownership since then, so we thought it was time to reinvigorate our message to them …

Wait, what? Let’s repeat that: The East Bay corporate community “hasn’t had any meaningful discussions” with the current A’s ownership since two-and-a-half years ago? That is a jaw-dropping quote because it means that it’s been at least two-and-a-half years since the A’s front office picked up a phone and tried to sell a suite or a game ticket or anything A’s-related to a major corporation in their home city. By now, you’ve all heard of that ballpark-banner-turned-meme, “Wolff lied, he never tried.” Well, Knauss’ comments factually support the “Wolff never tried” part because it’s clear the A’s owners are doing nothing to court the Oakland/East Bay corporate community.

And it might explain why there are Kaiser ads at Angels home games in Anaheim, but not at A’s home games in the city where Kaiser has its corporate headquarters: Oakland. One team’s front office — the Angels — has reached out to corporations and wants to make it work. The other team’s front office — Fisher’s and Wolff’s A’s — are content to sit on their hands and do nothing, collect welfare checks from other owners to make up the difference, and then whine about the lack of corporate support with the hope they can use it to garner support from MLB owners for moving the team out of Oakland.

Our question for MLB owners is this: Is it smart business for you to potentially weaken your franchise, which you’ve worked so hard to buy and maintain, by removing territorial rights for two guys who COULD make it work within their territory if they tried, but haven’t because they simply don’t want to?

The show of corporate support at the Clorox press conference and Knauss’ subsequent interviews with KNBR95.7-The Game and KQED illustrate that the Oakland/East Bay business community is fully willing to financially support a new A’s ballpark in Oakland. The question now is, are Wolff and Fisher? And if they can’t or won’t, then they should, as Knauss said on May 3, step aside and let somebody who will.


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