Sport News What happens in San Antonio stays in … Vegas?

“There’s no hard and fast rule across sports for how to handle team histories and intellectual property when franchises relocate, but there should be some common sense: when a team moves, if it changes its name, it relinquishes the history. It’s just good practice. Can you imagine the Oklahoma City Thunder dressing up as the Seattle SuperSonics, even for one game? But, if the Lakers bust out a Minneapolis throwback every now and then, so be it. They’re still the Lakers, just as they were all those years ago when they played in a place where that name made sense.”

I wrote those words three years ago for Dealbreaker, about the news that the Carolina Hurricanes would cosplay as the Hartford Whalers for two games against the Bruins. I know that it’s been a popular thing, because everyone loves the nostalgia of the Whalers and their uniforms look great, but it’s still one of those things that doesn’t sit right.

I wrote about this subject in 2014, too, for Sporting News, about the feeling of the Washington Nationals trying to have it both ways, acting like the Expos’ history was their history, yet also having Danny Espinosa on their roster, wearing Gary Carter’s retired-in-Montreal number 8.

So, I’ve been pretty consistent on my feelings about relocated teams and how their histories should be handled over the years. It’s not a position that I expected to really reconsider. But that’s exactly what happened last week, when I saw Tully Bevilaqua tweeting pictures of her trip to Las Vegas for the Aces’ alumni event.

Wait a minute. Bevilaqua never played in Las Vegas, since they didn’t start playing until 2018 and she last played in 2012, for the San Antonio Silver Stars, rounding out a WNBA career that started with the now-defunct Cleveland Rockers, continued with the Portland Fire, and also included stops in Seattle and Indiana, where she’s made her home now and broadcasts Fever games.

But there she was in Vegas, along with old teammates from San Antonio and even the Utah Starzz, the charter WNBA franchise that played six years in Salt Lake City. And it all seemed so natural, so right. Suddenly, I was confronted with reconsidering some opinions I’ve held pretty strongly for a long time. Bevilaqua was nice enough to accept a request to talk about that, and here’s some of that conversation.

Jesse Spector: So, what was that experience like, being welcomed as alumni of a team that’s really a few years old, but certainly goes back to San Antonio and Utah?

Tully Bevilaqua: It was unbelievable. Like, from the management side of things, they rolled out the red carpet for us from the time we arrived to the time we left. They treated us like royalty when we were there. It was amazing. And, you know, talking to the owner, Mark Davis, about how he wanted to also recognize the fact that the team wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for San Antonio and Utah, he wanted to make sure he recognized the former players that came before this group in some way, and it blew me out of the ballpark when I got the email. And like I said, from the moment we started, when we arrived, we were just treated like we were actually a part of the Aces, not another named team from back in the day.

JS: That is very cool, and I feel like that’s kind of the way it needs to be if you’re going to do this, because… like, if the Thunder did this and you brought back Sonics players, that would feel like a real slap in the face to Seattle fans in a way that… this doesn’t? I don’t think you’d get that same reaction in San Antonio.

TB: There has been no negative from what I have seen, from any of my social media posts and anything like that. There hasn’t been any negative posts from those from San Antonio or those from Utah, where the team used to be. And then those that are in Vegas with the Aces, welcomed us. At halftime, we were interviewed on a stage out on the court area, and the fans were so receptive and welcoming.

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