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Kevin Garnett has a strong rooting interest in soccer, Chelsea and AC Milan his preferred clubs. There are several US-based owners of major European clubs, and Garnett last year decided to join them by agreeing to chip in to AS Roma. About the same time, LeBron James joined Fenway Sports Group, which controls Liverpool FC.
When the teams met last month in an exhibition at Fenway Park (Roma beat Liverpool, 2-1) it was revealed Garnett had been excluded from financial involvement with Roma. The NBA blocked the move because AS Roma’s principal investor is Celtics part-owner James Pallotta.
“If you enter into a business agreement with the owner of a team that doesn’t involve playing service, there are potential problems,” a league source said. “Maybe not in this case. But there is a chance of, say, making a contract a lot larger.”
James is allowed to invest in Liverpool because Fenway Sports Group has no connection with the NBA.
“With LeBron, there is no tie-in whatsoever, so it’s a different deal,” the source said. “It’s like having a business relationship with Nike. We make it simple — you can’t have a business deal with your team, or any other team, because there is the possibility of an underhanded deal there. It’s pretty clear-cut.”
There was hope for an exception to be made because Garnett’s investment would have been drawn from a blind trust administered by his attorney. But the NBA said no dice.
The league’s concerns are legitimate. They don’t want KG getting overcompensated by AS Roma as a make-good for taking a discount with the Celtics.
Garnett will have to wait until he retires from the NBA to take ownership in Roma. The scenario also changes if James Pallotta sells his interest in the Celtics.
FWIW – Garnett is wearing a Chelsea jersey in the photo (courtesy: KCKRS).
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