BROOKLYN (PIX11)–The American Flag flies above the Brooklyn Nets flag outside Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn. But if team owner Mikhail Prokhorov follows through on his word, the stars and stripes could be replaced by a hammer and sickle outside the team’s future headquarters.
On Monday, Prokhorov reportedly said a Russian company will own the team in the future. The report was seemingly news to the NBA front office.
“The Nets are owned by Mikhail Prokhorov through a U.S.-based company,” NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said. “We have received no application nor is there a process underway through our office to transfer the ownership of the Nets to another company.”
Prokhorov, who ran for President of Russia in 2012 has suggested he intends to run again. But current President Vladimir Putin has since created new legislation barring business owners with overseas assets from running for office. So, while the announcement could come as a signal of Prokhorov’s intent to campaign or an effort to build the Nets as an international brand, many believe the timing is tied to the growing political tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.
“They had games in London and I guess they are trying to be more global,” Armando Cruz, who was standing outside Barclays Center, said. “But just the timing of it that it’s happening now, after what’s happening in Russia, to me it just seems more political.”
And with the Nets in the middle of a playoff push, many sports fans say the team needs to focus on their playoff seed, not the political tensions between the U.S. and Russia.
“Especially right now, the United States has a big issue with Russia,” NBA fan Sambaje Bossier said. “Considering what’s happening in Russia right now, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Onexim Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Nets, has since backed down from Prokhorov’s original statement. The company says talks about transferring ownership to a Russian company actually started last spring. In a statement the company said:
“This is a long process which may or may not come to fruition and nothing is imminent,” the company said in a statement. “Of course, no steps in this direction could or would be taken without the full knowledge and approval of the NBA. ”
Meaning right now Prokhorov’s plan is no slam dunk.