Thursday, May 24, 2012

Open Letter to OKC Leaders and the Thunder Organization

To our Oklahoma City Leaders and the Oklahoma City Thunder Organization,

Unfortunately our city experienced an event the night of May 21st that nobody wants to happen.  We had a shooting in the Bricktown area of Oklahoma City.  If the world were perfect, this would not happen anywhere, but our city is not immune from bad judgment and violence.  Another unfortunate aspect to this event was that it happened right after what should have been a joyous occasion in our city; the OKC Thunder winning in round 2 in the NBA playoffs.  Thousands of fans gathered in what has become known as “Thunder Alley” to be a part of the excitement and festivities for a team that the fans adore.  National media saw and reported on both events.  

Our leadership has now decided to eliminate the broadcast of the game in Thunder Alley due to safety issues, crowd size, and inability to control the situation.  This saddens me, angers me, and gives me pause to reflect on what I’ve always been proud of in our city.   May I share why I believe this is the wrong decision?
·         The shooting did NOT occur in Thunder Alley.  It may not have any connection whatsoever to the area or the game.  

  1. ·         The motto our city and the Thunder have collectively used has been “Rising Together”.  Much of that stems from the fact that our MAPS initiatives arose after the OKC Bombing and our city leaders had foresight to stand strong against terrorism, to build, and to become better.  Those initiatives were voted on by the CITIZENS, who agreed to be taxed to pay for the changes, which included the arena so we would have an opportunity to have an NBA team in our city.
  2. We, as a collective city, cannot condone violence, nor should we allow those who wish to cause trouble the perception that they wield the power to shut our city, our events, and our citizens and leaders down.  If they see us back down in this instance, what is to prevent them from opening fire at “Opening Night” or the Arts Festival or any other well attended event?  Are we going to shut those down too? 
  3.  This truly eliminates the lower income demographic from being a part of the festivities and joy of our NBA team and the successes we have reached.  Many cannot afford cable and cannot pay to take their families to a restaurant that MIGHT broadcast this coverage.  Nobody is entitled to this privilege, but we pride ourselves on being a collective community.  Let’s not take it away from people who don’t have the means…..or people who want to show support and can’t find a ticket to buy
  4. The National Media gave a lot of attention to the fan support in Oklahoma City.  During the game, the cameras focused on Thunder Alley many times and the broadcasters spoke of the support in our community.  What do you think they will ask when they come back for the next series and the fans are not there?  You cannot avoid media coverage on this situation, so we need to put a positive spin on it.  There is already talk of an “Occupy Thunder Alley” movement.   While not necessarily in agreement, I do see the point.  Again, a large crowd, but it will draw negative press.  We are better than that. 
  5. There has been much speculation and even adverse comments about Oklahoma City being able to handle an NBA team and becoming a competitor to the “Big League” cities.  We have proven them wrong time and time again.  The perception once again will be that we are not ready if we are not prepared to control large crowds and celebrations.  This is another opportunity for a community who knows how to face challenges to prove that we are prepared and we DO know what we are doing. Obviously it is true.  We do this every year with “Opening Night” and the Arts Festival.  It is about a strong law enforcement presence and the stringent enforcement of ordinances, laws, and regulations. 
  6.  Lastly, we have not eliminated the problem by canceling the broadcast.  There will still be crowds in Bricktown in the restaurants and clubs.  There will still be crowds filing out of the arena.  There will potentially be crowds that would have been (or may still be) in Thunder Alley that will be in the area.  The same number of people will still be in the area of concern.  The same scenario could very likely happen again.
 Please reconsider your decision.  Don’t punish the very people who have supported our leaders and our NBA organization.  There are measures that can be taken (and truthfully should already be in place) to keep this from being difficult.  We realize it may require a little more money in the budget, but again, shouldn’t this already be in place?  Surely large crowds were an expectation with the draw of an NBA team.  Certainly there will be a parade and celebration if we win the Conference finals or go on to win the NBA Championship?  That crowd will be immensely larger and more excited.  

I would be remiss if I didn’t offer suggestions.  I’m quite certain you’ve thought of these, but as a citizen, I have spoken with many others who are willing to make concessions to be a part of this exciting time in our history.
  1. Keep the Thunder Alley Broadcast.  Set up a fenced perimeter or several areas.  Put officers or security /event staff at the gates.  Keep certain pathways open for emergencies and for pedestrian flow (easily done with concrete barriers).  Perhaps add a few personnel. 
  2. If necessary, eliminate alcohol.  Not a favorite choice of the responsible people in attendance, but one they would concede to.  There were people carrying 12 pks, coolers, and cases of alcohol the other night.  Not once did I observe an officer attempt to walk through the crowd or stop anyone.  If there are gates, they can be checked at the gate. 
  3. If the above is not available, why can we not set up a different location and stream the game?  We’ve done that in our history for other events.  If available, use the Ballpark or the Convention Center……maybe even the fairgrounds. 
I truly do appreciate your concerns for the safety of our fans, but this has now become an issue much larger than that.  You have had the foresight to make this city into something special.  You have had the foresight to stand against terrorism.  Whether it is at the hands of a group, an individual, or in one shooting incident, violence of any sort is terrorism when it used to diminish the quality of life or restrict the freedom of other persons.  Please don't allow fears to override the need for strength in this situation.  Once again, let's RISE TOGETHER and let our voices be heard. 

Angie Milligan,
Proud fan of MY city, Oklahoma City,  and the Oklahoma City Thunder