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Report: Warriors Mercifully End Oakland’s Pro Sports Drought By Putting WNBA Team In San Francisco

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 17: Joe Lacob of the Golden State Warriors speaks to the crowd during the Golden State Warriors Chase Arena groundbreaking ceremony on January 17, 2017 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Noah Graham/Getty Images

After WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert spent the summer talking up the need to expand the league from 12 to 14 teams, it seems the first of the two cities to get the WNBA will be Oakland. This is great! Just four short years ago, Oakland had NBA, NFL, and MLB teams, all of which will have departed by the time the 2024 MLB season ends. The news that the East Bay's sports drought would soon be over broke during Wings-Aces on Tuesday night, with proud Oakland native Marcus Thompson of The Athletic first on the story. Thompson cautioned that the deal has yet to be formally completed, though he got a few details, namely that the Warriors ownership group is spearheading the deal.

"Deal isn’t done but if Warriors get the nod, the W franchise will be based in Oakland," he wrote, surely about to add more information on where in Oakland the team will play, before adding, "and play games at Chase Center." Something interesting that I discovered while researching this story is that the Chase Center is in "San Francisco," another city in neighboring San Francisco County. Apparently, the two cities don't even share a land border, as they are separated by the San Francisco Bay, a 1,600-square mile estuary filling the depression between two of the region's major faults, formed roughly half a million years ago when the large inland lake once occupying the Central Valley drained out through the strait now spanned by the Golden Gate Bridge. According to geologists, parts of southwestern San Francisco are on a different tectonic plate than Oakland?

All of this points to the conclusion that San Francisco and Oakland are two different cities, and a team that plays its home games in one cannot be said to meaningfully be, as Thompson puts it, "based in" the other. One might read the Athletic story, which notes that the team would perhaps practice in and have their offices at the old Warriors practice facility in Oakland, "which the organization still owns and uses to maintain a presence in the community," and wonder how much that presence matters to that community if the team will play its actual games for the community's more well-heeled counterpart across the Bay Bridge. One would probably come to the conclusion that this is simply branding bullshit, and then wonder why Thompson passed it along so uncritically.

It should be noted that two years before Joe Lacob got involved, the Alana Beard-helmed African American Sports & Entertainment Group began working to bring the WNBA to Oakland. Rumors of Lacob's interest first popped up in early 2023, around the same time AASEG entered into exclusive negotiations with Oakland officials about using the old Warriors arena by the airport. Given the public overtures of a different ownership group for a WNBA team that would actually play in Oakland, and given the Warriors' uneasy split for San Francisco while trying to continue endearing themselves to East Bay fans, it's no surprise then that they would make every effort to appeal to Oaklanders as they snap up their town's chance to get a WNBA team. What's more devious is Thompson accepting this framing and letting the Warriors launder their branding through the Athletic, under his byline.

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