When the new owners of the NBA's Sacramento Kings closzed the deal to buy the team in May, majority owner Vivek Ranadive touted the ownership group’s vision of sports as an "agent of change" and vowed to be a visible presence in the community, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Since then, the team has donated more than $1 million to local nonprofits, including 10 percent of season ticket proceeds generated through October 10 to more than two dozen organizations. The team also conducted a holiday-themed "12 Days of Giving Big" campaign that benefitted sixty local organizations and featured toy drives and visits to hospitalized children by Kings players. "We talk about using our celebrity as a means of social change and social good, and I want us to be a key part of the fabric of this community," said Kings president Chris Granger. "This team is not here without this community, and we're not doing our part unless we’re returning the favor and doing everything we can, given our social status, to make Sacramento a better place."
While giving back to the community is nothing new for Sacramento's lone major sport franchise — the Kings' previous owners, the Maloof family, gave some $21 million to local causes during the fourteen years they owned the team — political consultants in California's capital city say the philanthropy of the Kings' new owners is as much about public relations as it is about charity, given that a plan calling for the city to contribute $258 million to a new downtown arena is likely headed for a vote next year.
"Clearly what’s going on is a combination of things, one of which is the very altruistic nature of charitable giving, while at the same time [the Kings] are hoping that it will influence the voters so they will support the arena project and not an initiative that might prevent the arena from being built," said political strategist Doug Elmets.
But if critics of the team's renewed focus on community engagement question its motives, nonprofits are quick to praise the new owners for supporting local arts fundraisers, donating game proceeds to community groups, and encouraging players to take part as well. "[The Kings] are trying to do some rebranding with community involvement," said Gina Knepp, who heads the city's animal shelter. "I can only see it getting better. I'm going to have every single player adopt a dog or cat from us before I'm done."