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NFL OWNERS PULL IN REIGNS ON GEORGIA'S MOVE TO ST. LOUIS
Published March 16, 1995
NFL owners voted 21-3 to reject the Rams move to St. Louis. Only the Bucs and the Bengals voted with the Rams, with six teams abstaining. The vote left the Rams "to contemplate legal action and another year of football somewhere in Southern California" (Simers & Plaschke, L.A. TIMES, 3/16). The owners, "especially the old guard," voted to "seemingly and uncharacteristically defend such old fashioned principles as faith, loyalty, and ethics," feeling that they had to "draw a line" to prevent "poorly managed teams" from moving to new cities. 49ers VP Dwight Clark: "We didn't want to reward mediocrity" (Steve Bisheff, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/16). NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said opposition was based on three main issues: The Rams' unwillingness to share a large percentage of the $74M in PSL money they raised in St. Louis; the objection of Fox to losing a team in the 2nd-largest TV market; and the Rams' refusal to contribute to a "non-profit trust fund" the league wanted to aid in stadium renovations (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 3/16). In what "sounded like the opening salvo for an anticipated court battle," Rams Owner Georgia Frontiere said, "I'm not going to forget what has gone on here" (Len Pasquarelli, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/16). NO DEAL: The Rams offered to pay owners 24% of the PSL money, approximately $26M, but "failed to meet the other conditions" (Clark Judge, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 3/16). Frontiere called the league's demands "arbitrary and capricious and not based on precedent" (Kent Pullian, KANSAS CITY STAR, 3/16). Oilers Owner Bud Adams said after studying the Rams/St. Louis deal, "it became obvious that the Rams were not oppressed, but opportunists" (Plaschke, L.A. TIMES, 3/16). NFL officials went to Rams President John Shaw late Tuesday night "in a last-ditch effort to hammer out an amicable settlement," but Shaw rejected their offer and told the league "he expected to have the move vetoed" (Len Pasquarelli, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/16). Yesterday, Shaw "sounded as though the league had mounted" a campaign to oppose the move, and used Fox's opposition as an example. Shaw: "Fox had no opposition to this several weeks ago" (Dave Caldwell, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/16). Shaw: "I don't think they (NFL) had any interest in negotiating" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/16). The move would have hit each NFL owner "deep in the pocket ... perhaps by two sources," a rebate to Fox and a higher salary cap based on St. Louis' PSL "windfall" (Gordon Forbes, USA TODAY, 3/16). LEGAL EAGLES: Frontiere said she would consult with groups in St. Louis before making a decision on whether to file a lawsuit, but later, "in what may have been a slip of the tongue," she said, "I'm afraid you will have to wait and see what the court will decide" (KANSAS CITY STAR, 3/16). Shaw described himself as "extremely confident" the team would win a lawsuit against the league (Ira Miller, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, 3/16). But ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that NFL litigator Frank Rothman "told the owners that they now have some rulings that work in their favor. Most recently, and critically in this case, the Minneapolis U.S. District Court blocked the Minnesota Timberwolves from moving to New Orleans" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/16). Tagliabue was hopeful to avoid litigation, saying the league was "not trying to be confrontational. We are trying to be fair." But "he was vague on the next step" (R.B. Fallstrom, WASHINGTON POST, 3/16). The league is hoping the Rams will reopen negotiations, as "through conference calls and faxes, an outcome can be reached in days" (L.A. TIMES, 3/16). BEHIND THE VOTE: Cardinals General Counsel Tom Guilfoil, on Tagliabue's recommendation to vote against: "I've always said the commissioner might not have enough votes to ensure a move, but he'll always have enough support to kill one" (Steve Schoenfeld, ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/16). Save-the-Rams Chair Leigh Steinberg: "They're scared to death about leaving Los Angeles to the mercies of Al Davis" (John Helyar, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/16). Bills Owner Ralph Wilson: "We have rules and regulations and sometimes we have to live up to those" (ORANGE COUNTRY REGISTER, 3/16). Browns Owner Art Modell: "I'm a football man, No. 1, and No. 2, I'm a TV man. Having an NFC team in Los Angeles is critical to the NFC package" (S.D. UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/16). WHAT TO DO IN ST. LOU? Officials in St. Louis said "it was possible" that FANS, Inc. might have to return the $74M it raised in PSL sales "until a resolution is in sight" (KANSAS CITY STAR, 3/16). Frontiere to fans in St. Louis: "I need them to believe in me. It will make me stronger" (Bernie Miklasz, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/16). MEDIA REAX: In L.A., Bill Plaschke calls on Frontiere to sell the team: "All they (NFL) want you to do is leave something behind besides a stench. ... Shut up, Georgia. Pay the money and get out" (L.A. TIMES, 3/16). In Atlanta, Len Pasquarelli writes that Tagliabue's "sudden empathy with Rams fans is ironic," as the club has not enjoyed much support over the last few years. Pasquarelli: "Fox's concern is also dubious, since the network was forced last year to black out all of the Rams' home games locally" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/16). In St. Louis, Bernie Miklasz writes, "The NFL recently sent a letter to Fox, asking the network if it wanted that rebate if the Rams moved! (Collusion, anyone?)" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/16). Stephanie Huff, a marketing exec in St. Louis: "It's a good thing the NFL doesn't have an embassy in St. Louis. We would burn it down" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/16). CAN YOU GO HOME AGAIN? Tagliabue admitted the problem the Rams would have in returning to Anaheim in '95: "Once the bridges have been burned and people get turned off ... it is difficult to get it back" (NEW YORK TIMES, 3/16).