Democracy in sports? The Sounders believe it can work

SEATTLE – In the world of North American professional sports, there’s nothing quite like the Seattle Sounders’ recently concluded vote on whether or not to retain general manager Adrian Hanauer.

Turns out, there wasn’t much drama. An almost unbelievable super-majority of 96.7 percent elected in favor of keeping Hanauer, with only 504 of the 13,775 votes cast going against him.

While Hanauer said he was both “shocked and humbled” by the overwhelming vote of confidence, he also came away from the previously untested process feeling as though some tweaks could be in order.

“As an owner I thought it was a fantastic process,” Hanauer told a small group of reporters following the announcement on Thursday night. “I thought it was a learning process, but a great first step toward democracy in sports. As a general manager, I thought it was a good process, but I have some concerns and I think it will evolve.”

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Hanauer does not take a paycheck for his duties as GM, and while he considers it his main professional duty, the job is not his livelihood. That allowed Hanauer to have a certain carefree attitude about the process.

His successor, whenever and whoever it may be, will probably not have such a luxury.

“I know how busy I am without distractions,” he said. “So, to really have to focus on this whole thing and spend time campaigning or answering questions or doing interviews on it, it takes away from watching video of players or travelling to South America or Europe or doing the job. That is something that I’ll keep in the back of my mind for the next time whether it’s me or someone else.”

Whatever problems may possibly exist, Sounders ownership is fully committed to continue their commitment to “democracy in sports.”

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During a question-and-answer session at Thursday’s End-of-Year Business Meeting, Sounders majority owner Joe Roth even suggested that he and fellow owners Drew Carey and Hanauer would discuss the possibility of selling shares of the team to the public.

Carey, who was the driving force behind the election, also made it clear that this kind of voting was here to stay.

“Right now, the owners are good,” Carey told the crowd. “But 25 or 30 years from now, when we’re dead, when maybe the owners might not be so good, you and your kids are going to be damn glad we have a vote in place and you’ll be glad this is happening.

"Right now, it’s easy. This is for when we’re the Detroit Lions and Matt Millen is the general manager. That’s why we have this in place, so it never happens to us.”