SBD/6/Franchises

BROWNS TO BALTIMORE II: CAN THE LEAGUE DO ANYTHING STOP IT?

     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).
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