By The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board
April 29, 2020
When Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sacramento Kings CEO Vivek Ranadivé stood on the floor of Sleep Train Arena on April 6, their words seemed to give a clear impression: The NBA team was making a big philanthropic contribution to California.
Newsom thanked the team for donating 100,000 masks, supporting food banks and providing cash donations to help people in need. Newsom also profusely thanked Ranadivé for having “offered” the Sleep Train arena facility – the former home of the Kings – “before we even asked.”
... Afterward, The Sacramento Bee reported that the Sleep Train Arena site was a “donation.” Other news outlets framed the arena announcement in the context of the basketball team’s philanthropic contributions. But all of the stories missed a crucial detail.
“Turns out Sleep Train Arena, the team’s home in Natomas until 2016, is coming at a cost to taxpayers,” wrote The Bee last week in a follow-up story. “The state is paying the Kings $500,000 a month for use of the facility for three months, though the team has donated the use of adjacent practice facility.”
… But why didn’t the governor make it clear that this was a business deal rather than a donation? He never said the word “donation,” but he framed the April 6 announcement in purely philanthropic terms.
He cast it as an act of generosity and “largesse,” not a $1.5 million contract let the state use an empty arena. His language obscured this key detail, and neither the governor’s office nor the Kings sought to correct the “donation” characterization on April 6.
Last week, The Bee learned the deal’s price from public records and set the facts straight. … There was a $1.5 million elephant in the arena on April 6, but nobody mentioned it. .
… But no one heard anything about a contract during the big announcement at the arena. If Newsom had mentioned the price tag, it would have made every news story – but he didn’t mention it. …
Gov. Gavin Newsom should take this lesson to heart and do a better job of making sure the information he gives to the public is 100 percent accurate. A recent story by the Associated Press detailed how his actions don’t always live up to his words. Unfortunately, the governor has a long track record of making announcements that turn out to be half-baked.
… Ideally, the governor should make clear, complete and truthful announcements. Or, at the very least, his staff should do “clean up” duty when he makes errors. This means reaching out to reporters to clear up any false impressions created by the governor’s words.
In lieu of such practices, however, Newsom is right: The governor has repeatedly given reporters a reason to be much more skeptical of his words.
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