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
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).