Labor trouble could delay NFL expansion, Tagliabue says Baltimore groups make 1st presentation today

December 11, 1991|By Vito Stellino

LOUISVILLE,KY. — As Baltimore prepared its first show-and-tell session designed to sell itself as an expansion city to NFL officials, commissioner Paul Tagliabue again raised the specter yesterday of a delay in the NFL's expansion timetable because of labor problems.

"If labor-management problems are not resolved in a satisfactory manner, we may not go forward," Tagliabue said in New York after the first two of five expansion hopefuls made their presentations.

The other five, including Baltimore, will make presentations today to Tagliabue and several other league officials. None of the owners on the expansion committee are hearing the presentations.

A league spokesman said Tagliabue's comments weren't a change of the league's position that the expansion timetable could be delayed if labor issues are an "impediment."

Despite Tagliabue's use of the word "resolved," a spokesman said it didn't necessarily mean the league would have to get a collective bargaining agreement with the players before going ahead with plans to name two teams by next October to play in the fall of 1994.

But he conceded the league could stop the expansion process at any time. Although Tagliabue said "private discussions" are going on with the players' lawyers, all indications are that the talks are going nowhere and the owners and players appear headed toward an antitrust court battle in Minneapolis next year.

Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said he was operating on the assumption the league will expand.

"The fact they've scheduled these presentations leads me to believe it's not an impediment," he said of the labor situation. "We have to assume the league wouldn't collect $100,000 [from possible owners] unless he felt we were on track for expansion," Belgrad said.

Meanwhile, Belgrad was polishing the city's presentation, which will be slightly different from the other cities' because it has three potential owners: Florida businessman Malcolm Glazer, Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, the chairman of Merry-Go-Round, a nationwide chain of clothing stores, and author Tom Clancy.

The other cities are getting 45 minutes to make a presentation, followed by a 45-minute question-and-answer session.

Baltimore will get 45 minutes to make a presentation, which will feature Belgrad, Bruce Hoffman, director of the stadium authority, who supervised the construction of the new baseball stadium, and Matthew DeVito, chairman of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

The presentation will include a three-to-five-minute video that Belgrad said will stress the redevelopment of Baltimore "with special emphasis on Baltimore as a sports town."

That will be followed by a 30-minute question-and-answer session when Belgrad said he'll ask if the NFL would prefer the stadium authority to back one ownership group. Each of the three ownership groups will make a 15-minute presentation that will be followed by a 10-minute question-and-answer session.

Two of Baltimores's three potential ownership groups, but two of them will not be traditional businessmen. Weinglass, the one-time "Diner" guy, will be wearing his usual ponytail, while the outspoken Clancy will be the only best-selling author in any of the groups.

The unanswered question is whether their unconventional ways are a plus or a minus for the city's chances.

Weinglass notes he's a successful businessman and brushes off questions about whether there'll be objections to his ponytail. "I can't worry about stuff like that," he said.

Clancy, who wears dark glasses that make him look like a character in one of his novels (he says it's not

an affectation, but a result of his nearsightedness), said recently that the league owes Baltimore a team and that he'd rather sell his children to Gypsies than root for the Washington Redskins.

Clancy, though, said he'd tone down his rhetoric today and wouldn't tell the NFL that the league owes the city a team.

Belgrad said he's not concerned about the impressions Weinglass and Clancy will give the NFL.

"You have to look at what they've achieved and not whether they appear different or eccentric," Belgrad said.

Tagliabue seemed to help the chances of Weinglass and Clancy yesterday when he said, "I think we'd have a preference for local ownership."

Glazer, a native of Rochester, N.Y., who lives in Florida, is a more conventional businessman with an unconventional approach. He doesn't plan to borrow any money to buy the team if he gets it.

He'll repeat to league officials what he's said publicly. He's ready to write a check for the team so it won't be burdened by any debt service and will be solid financially.

Bryan Glazer, one of Malcolm's sons who'll appear with him, said, "We're going to highlight our stability as a family and an individual ownership group."

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