BROWNS INCH CLOSER TO APPROVAL FOR MOVE TO BALTIMORE
As they emerged from a meeting with NFL owners in Atlanta,
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Cleveland Mayor Michael White
"each predicted yesterday that the future of pro football in
Cleveland will be resolved within a month," according to the
Akron BEACON JOURNAL. Tagliabue: "It's not going to be any long
delay. We're in a position to move by early February."
Tagliabue downplayed rumors the Bucs would move to Cleveland, and
White denied having any contact with Bucs officials or "anyone
remotely associated with Tampa Bay." But the BEACON JOURNAL's
Adams & Hubbuch note, "White didn't seem to rule out that a third
party might be negotiating to bring the Buccaneers to Cleveland"
(Akron BEACON JOURNAL, 1/18).
ART'S SIDE OF THE STORY: ESPN's Chris Mortensen said Browns
Owner Art Modell did not speak with the owners very much, rather
he let his attorney handle the presentations since he felt "he
would be too emotional" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/17). One
anonymous team official, comparing the two presentations: "Art's
lawyer blew away the city" (Don Pierson, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/18).
Modell's attorney, Robert Weber, said a "violent" campaign
against Modell made it impossible for him to return to Cleveland
(Akron BEACON JOURNAL, 1/18). A released issued by the Browns
defended the move and outlined the chronology of relations with
local politicians. Modell was quoted as telling fellow owners:
"If the league allows the Mayor to hold the Browns hostage, then
every one of you are hostages too" (Browns). Giants co-Owner
Robert Tisch, who said Modell did not make such harsh comments in
the owners meeting: "I don't know why he put out that release"
(Richard Sandomir, N.Y. TIMES, 1/18). OUTLOOK: In Atlanta, Len
Pasquarelli reports league officials "all but conceded that the
relocation of the [Browns] is likely to be approved, even if
reluctantly, within the next two weeks" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION,
1/18). In Chicago, Don Pierson writes, "The handwriting on the
wall is becoming more clear: It's only a matter of time before
the franchise is playing in Baltimore" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/18).
USA TODAY's Gordon Forbes writes Tagliabue and the Cleveland
delegation "appeared headed for a settlement" -- although no
potential solutions were offered (USA TODAY, 1/18). ESPN's Chris
Mortensen: "Some people I know in the league -- who are in the
know -- don't really know what is going to happen"
("SportsCenter," 1/17). In Baltimore, Ken Rosenthal writes,
"Peace is nearly at hand" (Baltimore SUN, 1/18).
NO SYMPATHY: Raiders Owner Al Davis said Modell does not
have "clean hands" on the issue of franchise relocation. Davis:
"You've got to remember that Modell was the one who spoke out
adamantly against the Rams and the Raiders and put a lot of
obstacles in our way in Los Angeles. Then, here he is standing
up and -- in about one month -- changing everything he said in
the last 15 years" (Bart Hubbuch, Akron BEACON JOURNAL, 1/18).
Davis went on to call Modell's move to Baltimore a "diabolic
plot" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/18).