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BROWNS TO BALTIMORE II: CAN THE LEAGUE DO ANYTHING STOP IT?
Published November 6, 1995
The Akron BEACON JOURNAL lists the NFL's criteria for allowing a team to move. A summary: Adequacy of current stadium and willingness of locality to remedy deficiencies; fan loyalty; extent of public financial support; ownership's contribution to circumstances; existence of net operating losses; degree to which team has engaged in good faith negotiations to remain; presence of other NFL teams in current or proposed markets; whether the stadium authority, if public, is opposed to a move (BEACON JOURNAL, 11/4). YEAH, SO WHAT? As the BEACON JOURNAL's Bart Hubbach notes, "Although the Browns' situation in Cleveland doesn't appear to fit the NFL's eight written criteria for a franchise shift, that list of criteria is widely considered worthless" (Akron BEACON JOURNAL, 11/5). In Cleveland, Tony Grossi also notes because of events in the past year (the Raiders and Rams), "it is questionable whether those guidelines have any real power to keep a team from moving to a more lucrative site." Any move requires a 3/4 vote of NFL owners (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 11/4). But 49ers President Carmen Policy stresses, "We can't stop it. ... We are bound by the tenets of antitrust laws, which do not apply to baseball. And because of that, there are things we cannot do" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 11/5). NFL Dir/Communications Greg Aiello noted relocation rules have not been tested in court, but he expressed confidence they would "comply with the antitrust laws." However, Stephen Ross, antitrust expert at Univ. of IL-Urbana, believes the NFL's guidelines are too "vague," and Duke Law's John Weistart notes the Raiders and Rams "severely weakened" the NFL's ability to prevent others from going (Jon Morgan, Baltimore SUN, 11/6). OTHER OWNERSHIP REAX: Giants Co-Owner Wellington Mara: "I think the validity of our by-laws is in the scrap heap, as far as moves are concerned. ... We're in the era of free agency for franchises." But Mara approves Browns Owner Art Modell's decision, calling him the "third man out" in Cleveland after the Cavs and Indians (Tony Grossi, Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 11/5). Patriots Owner Bob Kraft: "I'm not going to vote for it. I just don't think it is right." Citing fan support and TV ratings in Cleveland, Kraft said he did not think the Browns fit the guidelines. Bills Owner Ralph Wilson, a close friend of Modell: "This is wrong and I'm against it. The credibility of our league has taken a beating in the last year. Fans across the league used to believe that our league stood for something" (Will McDonough, BOSTON GLOBE, 11/5). On NBC, McDonough reported he had spoken with many owners and that "there is going to be opposition." But he added: "Either way, I think he's going to move" ("NFL on NBC," 11/5). Both ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Fox's James Brown noted the likelihood of a lawsuit from Redskins Owner Jack Kent Cooke ("NFL GameDay," "Fox NFL Sunday," 11/5). Chargers Owner Alex Spanos called it the "greatest move that Art Modell can make. ... It just shows you how much football is really wanted around the country" (USA TODAY, 11/6). The Oilers' Bud Adams, himself headed for Nashville, believes Modell will get the votes (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/6). One Maryland official: "The league tries to hold you hostage for a while until they can get what they want" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/6). WHO'S NEXT? ESPN's Mortensen: "Other teams have similar problems, the Seahawks want to move to L.A., the Oilers to Nashville, and the timing of Modell's move can be directly linked to the Buccaneers problems in Tampa" ("NFL Gameday," ESPN, 11/5). Fox's Brown: "Don't be surprised if the Bengals take I-71 north and end up [in Cleveland]." Brown also reported the Nordstrom family will help to build a football-only stadium in Seattle (FOX, 11/5). In L.A., Bill Plaschke reports on the battle between Disney and the Dodgers over who will own the new L.A. franchise. Plaschke also reports the Seahawks' Ken Behring has been in talks with Disney on helping move his team to L.A. and becoming a minority partner (L.A. TIMES, 11/5). Bengals President Mike Brown told the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER: "We have absolutely no intentions of talking to any other town. We want to stay in Cincinnati." Cincy residents vote in March on a sales tax increase for a new football stadium (Baltimore SUN, 11/5). LEAGUE-EYE VIEW: In New York, Gary Myers writes the league "has entered into a volatile free-agent franchise era" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/5). In Tacoma, John Clayton writes, "The NFL now stands for No Fan Loyalty" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 11/4). In Boston, Will McDonough writes the agenda at Tuesday's owners meeting "is indicative of where the NFL has been heading for the past two years. Nothing will be about football. The entire meeting is about money" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/5). In Tampa, Pat Yasinskas writes Commissioner Paul Tagliabue "has a time bomb on his hands. ... Nearly one-third of [NFL] teams are unhappy with their stadiums and a handful of NFL-less cities would be thrilled to spend a fortune for a franchise." NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw: "It's all about stadiums" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 11/5). NBC's Joe Gibbs: "This is a devastating blow to the NFL. ... What we have now is free agent teams." NBC's Mike Ditka: "You have to look around at the atmosphere created in the league by guys like Jerry Jones. It's become one of I, me, greed, let's do what we can to help ourselves, and [Modell's] just fighting fire with fire" ("NFL on NBC," 11/5).