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HOT TIMES IN PHOENIX AS OWNERS DEBATE RAMS MOVE
Published March 14, 1995
NFL owners met for two hours in Phoenix yesterday to debate the Rams move to St. Louis, with NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue declaring ownership "hopelessly undecided." In L.A., Bill Plaschke and T.J. Simers writes, "No news was bad news for the Rams" (L.A. TIMES, 3/14). Tagliabue reiterated his opposition to the move and league ownership appears "disinclined to grant approval" of the Rams move out of Anaheim (Thomas George, N.Y. TIMES, 3/14). "Hanging over the discussions" was a declaration from MO Attorney General Jay Nixon that the state will file an antitrust suit against the NFL if the move is turned down (Vito Stellino, Baltimore SUN, 3/14). In addition, Rams President John Shaw "raised the possibility of a sexual discrimination suit" on behalf of Owner Georgia Frontiere if the league forced her to sell the team in order to keep the Rams in Southern CA (Bernie Miklasz, ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH, 3/14). Tagliabue hopes to have a vote by the end of the meetings on Thursday, but he added that no vote "would be tantamount to a rejection of the move" (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 3/14). FOX FACTOR: Tagliabue said the move would "jeopardize the NFL's relationship with the Fox network" by removing a team from the second-largest TV market. If the Rams stay, Fox would serve markets covering 58% of TV households. With the Rams in St. Louis, that number drops to 52.5%, according to Tagliabue. Tagliabue: "That's a big swing. Fox paid a premium to get the NFC package." Shaw said he believes the NFL helped "persuade Fox to change its stance" on the move, as the network was unopposed as of mid-January (Jim Thomas, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/14). Broadcast Committee Chair/ Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen: "I am concerned. How can we expect Fox to embrace this decision?" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/14). MISMANAGEMENT WITH A PROFIT? The league is arguing that Rams management did not do all it could have to keep the team in the L.A. area, and questions their claim of revenue losses. The NFL maintains the Rams averaged $9M in profits between '89-93. Oilers Owner Bud Adams: "For you to move in this league ... one of the things is you have to be losing money. Heck, the Rams make good money. They make more money than I do. That's not counting what Georgia takes" (Plaschke & Simers, L.A. TIMES, 3/14). But Frontiere counters: "The last four years, we haven't done well, but that is not for lack of trying. A lot of teams go through slumps" (ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH, 3/14). The "hangup" is the owners bid to get a share of the $70M in PSL money from St. Louis, but Shaw argues that money belongs to the city (Baltimore SUN, 3/14). Tagliabue said the PSL money is the "number one concern of our owners" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/14). SEE YOU IN COURT: By introducing the threat of a lawsuit, Nixon "threw a grenade into the NFL's conference room." But 49ers President Carmen Policy said, "If they think that's going to scare us, they are dealing with the wrong people." Raiders Owner Al Davis, who won litigation against the league: "Maybe if you would ask them about the result of the lawsuit, maybe they would answer a little differently" (Bernie Miklasz, ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH, 3/14). Browns Owner Art Modell called the lawsuit "ill-advised," and other owners didn't seem pleased by the threat (Baltimore SUN, 3/14). Tagliabue said it would be "a positive" if the league could "stay out of" the courts (Larry Weisman, USA TODAY, 3/14). A private agreement between the Rams and FANS, Inc. was made public yesterday, stating that FANS will pay the cost of any "settlement between the Rams and the NFL that brings the team to St. Louis" (William Freivogel, ST. LOUIS POST- DISPATCH, 3/14). TALK, TALK: ESPN's Chris Mortensen said the NFL wants to stay out of the courts and will approve the move with some "stipulations that will either attract another team to L.A. or help build another stadium for the Raiders and keep them in L.A" ("SportsCenter," 3/13). The move has "degenerated into a multimillion dollar game of chicken" (Jim Thomas, ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH, 3/14). In Washington, Leonard Shapiro writes of a few owners who are concerned about leaving Southern CA with "maverick" Al Davis and the Raiders as the "only team in town" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/14). WE'RE NUMBER ONE! It's "getting ugly now," writes Bernie Miklasz, who reports that Save the Rams leader Leigh Steinberg "flipped on obsence gesture" to a St. Louis columnist "during a huffy exchange" in a hotel lobby (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/14).