Seahawks history: Ken Behring and when we almost lost the Seattle Seahawks
The early ’90s weren’t standout seasons for the Seattle Seahawks. Just two years into the decade, they stumbled badly.
“The Seattle Seahawks’ march through the 1992 season was a perilous journey. The Seahawks suffered through the worst campaign in franchise history, scoring the fewest point in the league,” says a documentary from NFL Films.
Just 140 points all told in the regular season. It left them with just two wins and 14 losses. It was rock bottom. Two years later the roof caved in, literally.
Tiles from the Kingdome roof started falling and in 1996, citing concerns over earthquake danger, team owner Ken Behring announced he was taking the Seattle out of the Seattle Seahawks.
“It is with great regret that I am announcing today, that the NFL franchise we purchased in 1988, is leaving Seattle,” Behring stated.
The result, as judged by voices from a televised Town Hall, was outrage.
“They have broken their contract. It is illegal. It’s wrong. And this shall not stand,” said one man.
“Ken Behring does not deserve Seattle,” said another.
“Do we care if Mr. Behring leaves?!” asked one upset man.
“No!” the crowd shouted in response.
“We want the team here, right?” the man asked.
“Yes!” shouted the crowd again, cheering.
And activism began, too. As moving vans trucked team equipment from Kirkland to southern California and players went through off season workouts at the Ram’s old facility in Anaheim, state and King County leaders fought back with threats of breach of contract and an anti-trust lawsuit against Behring.
Arguably the most hated man in Washington at that time, Behring was facing death threats and ridicule on local shows like Almost Live, which portrayed him using a hideously evil looking sock puppet.
“They say I’m using (the Kingdome) as an excuse, but I’m not,” said sock puppet Behring. “I’m so scared when I go into that building that I tip-toe around in it. Now did you know that it’s made of concrete!? The weakest material known to man!”
Years later, Behring’s son David admitted the move wasn’t about earthquakes, but about getting public money for a new stadium.
Regardless, Behring’s Hawks Hijacking crumbed under the local legal pressure and a threat from the NFL to fine him half a million dollars a day if he didn’t bring the team back.
So he said he wanted to sell and Paul Allen stepped up as the new owner. The Seattle Seahawks were saved.
Ken Behring went on to be a huge philanthropist – and a bust of him sits in the National Museum of American history.
But unlike Allen he will never, ever raise the 12th Man flag.