|One of the main reasons the Republican Party chose Cleveland over Dallas was they wanted a venue that could host the convention early in the summer, preferably starting on June 28. Republican Chairman Reince Priebus pointed out federal fundraising rules as the reason for moving the convention to the unusually early date. In 2012, Mitt Romney had raised millions of dollars for the general election in the Spring, but he could only spend that money once the general election started, meaning after the convention was held. An early Republican convention would mean a their presidential nominee could have access to all of their funds at an earlier date.
Republicans are hoping to host their convention starting on June 28 and would need access to the host arena at least six weeks in advance in order to set up for the convention. The final game of the 2014 NBA finals was on June 15. Had that series gone the maximum seven games, it would have ended on June 20. The 2014 Champion San Antonio Spurs used their stadium for an additional week as they celebrated their championship with the city of San Antonio.
NBA fans know May and June are for playoffs. Dallas' American Airlines Arena is owned by the city of Dallas and The Dallas Mavericks, owned by Mark Cuban, have access to the arena through a contract. When asked if The Mavericks would host their playoff games in a location other than the American Airlines Center, Mark Cuban gave the Republicans a flat "No."
In Cleveland, the Quicken Loans Arena is owned by Dan Gilbert, who also owns the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers have not made the playoffs since LeBron James left the team in 2010, even with the addition of superstar point guard Kyrie Irving. Gilbert agreed to allow the national Republican Party access to the arena, even in the unlikely circumstance his basketball team made the 2016 playoffs. It seemed like a safe bet.
And then a funny and unexpected thing happened: LeBron James came home. In a weak Eastern conference, any team with LeBron should be considered a contender for the championship. With James, Irving, the 2014 first pick of the draft Andrew Wiggins, and potentially All Stars Kevin Love and Ray Allen joining them, The Cleveland Cavaliers are suddenly one of the hottest teams in basketball.
The situation changed on Gilbert. He can either keep his word to national Republicans and have his All Star team play in a secondary facility, upsetting thousands of fans who will blame him and the Republican Party, likely throwing Ohio to the Democrats, or he could tell the Republican Party they will have to pick a new date in mid-July, likely to the displeasure of Chairman Priebus.
Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks were smart enough to not allow national politics to interfere with their business. While Dallas lost out on hosting the convention, fans of The Mavericks were never treated as secondary to a potential bidder.
In Cleveland, meanwhile, LeBron James has shown that with only his presence, he could force a major American political party to change their plans. It has been over fifty years since any sports team won a championship in Cleveland; if 2016 is the year the city of Cleveland finally wins another championship, the people of northeast Ohio will know who to blame if they have to watch their return to glory in second-class seats: The Republican Party.
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