KC & sports: A love fest

Kansas Citians' support of their sports teams yield rich rewards.



February 3, 2020 - 10:17 AM

Clark Hunt, owner and CEO of the Kansas City Chiefs, hoists the Vince Lombardi trophy after Sunday’s Super Bowl win. Photo by (Tammy Ljungblad/Kansas City Star/TNS)

The Kansas City Chiefs are world champions of professional football. That’s a sentence many Kansas Citians thought they’d never see again.

But it’s true, and it’s amazing. The Chiefs powered past the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s Super Bowl, bringing home a shiny trophy to swell the hearts of a million people.

In itself, this is not unusual. All communities love their local teams. Sports unite people in strange and wonderful ways, and in this polarized era, that kind of unity feels special.

Yet Kansas City’s affection for the Chiefs — and for the Royals — seems especially intense. But why?

Winning helps. But here’s a better explanation: Both teams seem more like neighbors than big-time franchises. They appear to love Kansas City as much as Kansas City loves them.

That is unusual. The Star regularly reports on businesses that are leaving our communities, or threatening to leave, unless taxpayers lubricate the wheels. That’s what the pointless Border War is all about.

Do we need to mention all the sports franchises that happily blackmailed their communities for better facilities? Take a bow, Stan Kroenke. You too, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders.

The NBA’s Phoenix Suns took a hard look at relocating to Las Vegas or Seattle. The NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins flirted with Kansas City to extort cash for a new stadium. The Baltimore-Cleveland-Indianapolis NFL dance was remarkable, and sad.

Au revoir, Montreal Expos. Later, Houston Oilers. See ya, Seattle Supersonics.

The Oakland A’s might move. The A’s! They deserted Kansas City, which had lured the team away from Philadelphia. Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?

Yes — the Chiefs and Royals. 

“I sat through all of the lease negotiations in 2005 and 2006,” said Mike White, a development lawyer and one-time Jackson County executive. “There was never a direct threat by either team to move, although we knew that the Chiefs could easily have gone to Los Angeles.”

Jackson County Executive Frank White said, “We now have first-class organizations that are committed to our community and have not tried to leverage more public support by threatening to abandon this great city.”

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, like his father Lamar, appears locked in on Kansas City. Before his death, former Royals owner David Glass secured new local ownership.

“Kansas City’s sports franchises certainly have a long history of civic commitment to the local area,” said Charles Euchner, who wrote “Playing the Field: Why Sports Teams Move and Cities Fight to Keep Them.”

“The (Ewing) Kauffman family set the tone,” he said in an email. “And I suspect there’s a touch of Midwestern nice.”

Yes, the story is complicated: The Chiefs moved here from Dallas, after all. We did lose the NBA Kings and the NHL Scouts, and the hapless Athletics. Like many cities, we have felt the slap of owner extortion, and the sting of rejection.