Houston Rockets Sold for Record $2.2 Billion: Your Texas Roundup
Plus: Flooded Houstonians sue the government for releasing dams near their homes, Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension is upheld, and a federal court says Texas can keep its voter ID law for November.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I wouldn’t be concerned about it. I went and swam the next day.”
—Jim Pigg, South Padre Island beach patrol director, to the McAllen Monitor on Tuesday. Pigg apparently isn’t too worried about a shark bite that happened near the Bougainvillea beach access point on Saturday. Pigg said this shark bite, which was not fatal, was the first he’s seen in his seventeen years of living and working on the Island.
The Houston Rockets have a new owner, and it’s a familiar face for Houstonians. Tilman Fertitta, the 60-year-old Houston billionaire, bought the franchise for an NBA-record $2.2 billion on Tuesday, breaking the previous record for the sale of a franchise by $2 million, according to the Houston Chronicle. The Galveston native is the chairman and CEO of dining and hospitality chain Landry’s Inc. and the chairman of the University of Houston board of Regents. As ESPN notes, Fertitta has had court side seats for the Rockets for several years. “I am truly honored to have been chosen as the next owner of the Houston Rockets,” Fertitta said in a statement released by the team. “This is a life-long dream come true.” Although Forbes valued the Rockets at $1.65 billion earlier this year—good for the eighth-most valuable franchise in the NBA—the franchise received multiple offers that began at $2 billion, according to ESPN. The Rockets franchise was put up for sale in July by longtime owner Leslie Alexander, who was one of the longest-tenured owners in North American professional sports. “I am excited to welcome and pass the torch to Tilman,” Alexander said in a statement, according to ESPN. “He is a Houstonian, business leader and committed to the success and excellence of the Rockets both on and off the basketball court. I have personally known Tilman for over 24 years and don’t think I could have found anyone more capable of continuing the winning tradition of our Houston Rockets.” It’s unclear what the immediate effect of the change of ownership will be, but the sale to Fertitta all but guarantees that the Rockets will stay in Houston, though there was a slim chance that a new owner would move the team anyway. The Rockets had the third-best record in basketball last season, led by an MVP-caliber performance by James Harden. And with the addition of superstar point guard Chris Paul in an offseason trade, Fertitta is inheriting a franchise on the rise.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
As Houston and southeast Texas slowly recovers from the damage caused by Tropical Storm Harvey, one group of Houston homeowners and businesses is already looking to hold someone accountable for their flood-damaged properties. According to the Houston Chronicle, the group sued the federal government on Tuesday, alleging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers knowingly condemned their properties when it released water from the Barker and Addicks reservoirs in West Houston. Civil attorney Bryant Banes, whose home flooded even after the waters from Harvey started to recede, is looking for billions of dollars in compensation in what he hopes will turn into a massive class-action lawsuit for homeowners, building managers, and business owners in the area affected by the controlled release from the reservoirs. Banes told the Chronicle that he’s not accusing the government of doing anything wrong when it opened up the dams as a flood control measure, but he said he does believe the government should reimburse residents for the damage it caused by flooding their previously dry homes and businesses. “When they make a choice to flood one area to save another, it’s their responsibility to pay for the consequences,” Banes told the Chronicle.
The NFL upheld its original six-game suspension for Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott on Tuesday. Last month, the NFL announced it had suspended Elliott for six games, stemming from domestic abuse allegations made against the star running back. The NFL said it had “persuasive” evidence that Elliott committed physical abuse against his ex-girlfriend Tiffany Thompson at least three times in July 2016, violating the league’s personal conduct policy, according to ESPN. No criminal charges have been filed against Elliott. The second-year pro appealed the decision immediately. A hearing in New York last week went on for three days, with lengthy testimony from Elliott and multiple experts and witnesses, not including Thompson. Despite the decision to uphold Elliott’s suspension, he’ll still be eligible to play in the team’s season opener this Sunday. Elliott led the league in rushing last season with 1,631 yards.
A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that Texas can keep its voter ID law in place for the upcoming November elections, Politico first reported Tuesday night. Last month, a different federal judge scrapped Senate Bill 5—the Texas Legislature’s attempt to soften the original voter ID law—writing that the state still failed to fix what the judge said was an intentionally discriminatory ID law. But the U.S. Department of Justice appealed that ruling, and while the appellate court’s three-judge panel split in the 2-1 ruling, it decided to at least let the state use the revised ID law until the courts can completely sort out the appeals process. Judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Elrod wrote that Texas “has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits,” adding that Texas also “made a strong showing that this reasonable-impediment procedure remedies plaintiffs’ alleged harm and thus forecloses plaintiffs’ injunctive relief.” According to Politico, this could prompt civil rights groups involved in the lawsuit to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block the revised voter ID law through November’s elections.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.
Baylor settled a lawsuit filed by an alleged victim of gang rape by football players Waco Herald-Tribune
Victoria’s Texas Zoo had to evacuate its big cats after the park sustained damage from Harvey Victoria Advocate
Congress will come together later this week to talk about how to help Harvey victims Texas Tribune
Some Harvey victims are being evicted Houston Chronicle
What’s in that murky Harvey floodwater? Nothing good Houston Press