St. Louis brewer targeted in push for an NFL team


November 06, 1993|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Staff Writer

Proud to be your Bud? Not if Stan "the Fan" Charles has his way.

The WCBM radio talk show host yesterday announced a protest that targets Anheuser-Busch products in Baltimore's bars and taverns, where patrons will be encouraged to just say no to the beers that made St. Louis famous -- and gave that city a perceived edge in the professional football expansion derby.

Ask for a Budweiser, Michelob, Busch, Natural Light or even a non-alcoholic O'Doul's, and your favorite barkeep might suggest that it's time for a change. However, no one will be refused one of the brands, and even participating bars plan to keep stocking it.

This fan-rights movement, sparked by bar talk and radio talk show chat, began gaining momentum a week ago when the National Football League gave a team to Charlotte, N.C, then postponed a decision on the second team. Baltimore; St. Louis; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Memphis, Tenn., were left in the lurch until Nov. 30.

As Baltimore waits, it seethes, with many fans convinced that the NFL postponed its decision so St. Louis will have time to smooth out the rough spots in its bid.

"Unless fans in Baltimore feel that the 30th NFL franchise is awarded fairly, a bad taste might be left in the mouths of Baltimore's beer-drinking public," Mr. Charles warned in a brief news conference at the downtown Mid-Town Yacht Club, one of the nearly 20 bars that have agreed to participate.

He then donned a "No Bombers, No Bud" sweat shirt, as a table of Johns Hopkins University students chanted the same slogan, then chugged Coors Light.

The protest turns on a rather complicated conspiracy theory in which NFL owners have loaded the dice to favor St. Louis because James Busch Orthwein, whose mother is on the Anheuser-Busch board, is holding the New England Patriots hostage, and will take that team out of the top-10 Boston market if St. Louis doesn't get a team.

Follow that? Then you may be ready for the next part of Mr. Charles' explanation: This is not a boycott. "That would cheapen what a boycott is really about," he said. "Remember this is still, after all, about getting a football franchise."

But he said he wouldn't mind if Memphis and Jacksonville tried a similar protest. "I wonder if they would feel it if some of those markets started hemorrhaging," he said of the brewer.

That would be a lot of blood. Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. has 44 percent of the domestic market. It also is the NFL's largest advertiser and many observers consider the relationship symbiotic: While football needs those advertising dollars, the brewery needs football's largely male audience.

For the record, Michael J. Roarty, executive vice president for corporate marketing and communications at Anheuser-Busch, released this statement: "We are pleased to know that the remaining four cities are still under consideration for an NFL team. It's exciting to see the level of fan enthusiasm that's been generated in all these markets. We wish all of the ownership groups the best of luck as the NFL makes its final decision."

But those who gathered yesterday at the Mid-Town Yacht Club -- some clad in Carolina Panthers T-shirts -- weren't buying it. And they weren't buying Budweiser, usually one of the bar's most popular brands.

On the shelf where the bar's beers are displayed, all Anheuser-Busch products were sheathed in white paper bags, decorated with "No Bombers, No Bud" stickers.

Morgan Hoffman, a Busch man, said he will switch brands.

"The impact will make them at least think," said the 21-year-old Hopkins political science major.

His drinking habits alone may have an impact -- he's 6 feet 2 inches and 400 pounds. He claims to drink at least a case a day.

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