NFL expansion committee complete


May 30, 1991|By Vito Stellino

Despite the NFL's setback in court Tuesday, commissioner Paul Tagliabue is moving ahead with the expansion process.

Yesterday Tagliabue named the final three members of the expansion committee that he will chair, and he announced that the committee will hold its first meeting in July.

The three new members are Hugh Culverhouse of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rankin Smith of the Atlanta Falcons and Alex Spanos of the San Diego Chargers.

Smith and Spanos have rarely played a key role in league issues, but Tagliabue has said he wants to get more owners involved in league affairs.

Tagliabue originally said he was only going to appoint two more members, but said he increased it "due to the expansion workload and the interest within the league on this issue."

The members he appointed last week were Norman Braman of the Philadelphia Eagles, Art Modell of the Cleveland Browns and Edward DeBartolo of the San Francisco 49ers.

All the members of the committee voted for expansion last week, when the owners decided by a 22-4-2 margin to put two teams on the field by 1994. The committee is supposed to limit the field by March, and the final two teams are to be named by fall 1992.

The owners said they could delay expansion if "labor-management issues constitute an impediment to such an expansion timetable."

The owners may have found that impediment when a federal judge in Minneapolis, David Doty, ruled Tuesday that the NFL Players Association is not a union. The ruling would strip the owners of their antitrust exemption, which allows them to restrict the movement of players, and could lead to total free agency for players. The owners will appeal the decision to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

A trial on the issue is scheduled to start Feb. 17 in Minneapolis. The owners could decide they don't want to go ahead with expansion while they're facing a major trial.

But the owners are facing pressure in Congress to expand by more than two teams. Sen. Albert Gore (D-Tenn) has requested a meeting with Tagliabue to discuss why the NFL can't expand by more than two teams.

Herbert Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said he's confident the commissioner will stick to his timetable. He said he's waiting to hear when the committee wants reports from cities seeking expansion teams.

Cities besides Baltimore bidding for teams are expected to include St. Louis; Charlotte, N.C.; Memphis, Tenn.; Jacksonville, Fla; Oakland and Sacramento, Calif.; and San Antonio.

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