Sonics' lawyers don't want author Sherman Alexie testifying
Prize-winning author, poet and humorist Sherman Alexie shouldn't be allowed to testify at an upcoming trial to block the Seattle SuperSonics from moving to Oklahoma City because he has nothing relevant to say and is known for his "profanity-laced" columns for a weekly newspaper, the team argues.
Alexie, winner of a National Book Award and a PEN/Hemingway Award, also is a basketball fan who writes a column called "Sonics Death Watch" for the Stranger, an alternative weekly newspaper. His column has been highly critical of plans by the Sonics' owners to move the team out of town and is described as profanity-laced in a court filing by the team.
The Professional Basketball Club, the owners' group led by Oklahoma businessman Clay Bennett, wants to pay off the final two years of its lease at Seattle's KeyArena and move the NBA team to Oklahoma City for next season, while the city of Seattle is suing in federal court to force the team to fulfill the lease. Trial is to begin June 16.
In a pretrial statement, city lawyers said Alexie, an American Indian, would testify concerning the team's role in the community from the perspective of a season ticket-holder, and the impact of the Sonics on minority communities.
In a motion filed Tuesday, lawyers for the team owners sought to exclude Alexie and local radio talk show host Mitch Levy as witnesses, saying "neither has any relevant testimonial knowledge" and both have "nothing that aids the court in deciding this case."
Levy, whose show is on KJR in Seattle, was listed because of his knowledge of the Sonics before Bennett and his co-owners bought the club in 2006.
The motion listed examples of Alexie's writing, including one passage that says he hates the former Sonics owner, Starbucks Corp. Chairman Howard Schultz, "for selling the team to a boring red-state millionaire named Clay." The motion also says Alexie's columns are "obviously so biased that his testimony is of no evidentiary value."
An e-mail to Alexie's production company requesting comment was not immediately returned.
The Stranger staff responded to the filing by parodying the motion with a profanity-laced, fake letter to U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman, who will hear the case, and posting it on the newspaper's blog.
NBA owners have overwhelmingly approved Bennett's application to move the Sonics to his hometown of Oklahoma City, pending the outcome of the KeyArena lease trial.
Alexie won the 2007 National Book Award for young people's literature for "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian." His 1993 collection of short stories, "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven," won a PEN/Hemingway Award for best first book of fiction.
Alexie wrote the screenplay for the 1999 movie "Smoke Signals," about life for young Indians living on a reservation. He frequently turns to basketball and its importance to reservation life as a theme in his stories and poems.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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