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MARYLAND SEEKS TO PUSH AGENDA WITH SUIT AGAINST THE NFL
Published January 19, 1996
The state of Maryland and the Maryland Stadium Authority filed a $36M federal antitrust suit against the NFL and 29 of its 30 teams "in an attempt to hasten the move of the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore for the 1996 season," according to the WASHINGTON POST. Maryland Stadium Authority Chair John Moag announced the filing of the suit in Baltimore District Court by saying they were "prompted by the illegal failure of the NFL to approve the move." NFL owners ended their January meetings in Atlanta yesterday with no decision on the Browns' move. Moag: "This is obviously a preemptory move on our part." The suit claims the league violated state and federal antitrust laws by preventing the Authority from competing for teams, asserting its right to block the move, injuring the Authority financially (delays will cost more than $30M in extra bond payments), and injuring the MD economy. The suit seeks to an order banning the NFL from interfering as well as fines and damages. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the Browns issue will be taken up at a special meeting on February 8-9, at a location to be determined. Tagliabue said at that time he will deliver his report on the Browns situation and possibly a personal recommendation one way or the other (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 1/19). LOOKING AHEAD: There was "speculation" that the owners would vote in February to approve the move while promising Cleveland a team once a new stadium is built. But Fred Nance, lead attorney for the city of Cleveland, said a non-binding promise is not acceptable. Tagliabue said the league would not force the Bucs to move to Cleveland to resolve the matter, but he left open the possibility of that happening on its own (Hubbuch & Adams, Akron BEACON JOURNAL, 1/19). Yesterday, while noting that "insiders say there is nothing to the Tampa Bay part of this triangle," Will McDonough reported "preliminary talks have begun" to get the Bucs to Cleveland with an eye on a settlement before a February vote (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/18). USA TODAY's Gordon Forbes: "The big question: Would Malcom Glazer and Art Modell consider swapping franchises, Glazer keeping the Browns in Cleveland and Modell moving the Bucs to Baltimore?" (USA TODAY, 1/19). Today's TAMPA TRIBUNE reiterates that three league sources say the Glazers have had talks with an unnamed "point man" in Cleveland, but NFL Counsel Jay Moyer said, "They haven't said to us that they want to move" (Yasinskas & Henderson, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 1/19). LABOR DEAL ALSO DELAYED: The owners also failed to vote on the extension of the current CBA with the players. The league is expected also to take up that issue at the special February meeting (WASHINGTON POST, 1/19). McDonough reports there is a revenue-sharing deal in the works in which the teams with the most lucrative stadium deals would share with lesser teams (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/18).