Schaefer calls Cooke 'totally wrong' for saying area can't support 2 teams

January 08, 1994|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Staff Writer

Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday that Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke is simply wrong if he believes the Baltimore-Washington market can support only one National Football League team.

"He's wrong. Totally wrong. They're two distinct areas," the governor said in reply to Mr. Cooke, who said in a Thursday interview with The Sun that he thought the "megalopolis" between Baltimore and Washington could support only one team.

That team, Mr. Cooke added, should be his Redskins, playing in a new $160 million stadium he wants to build with his own money midway between the two cities in Laurel.

Predictably, Mr. Schaefer -- who has been trying to bring an NFL team back to Baltimore since the Colts left in 1984 -- flatly disagreed.

"There could be a team in Baltimore and one in Laurel if [Mr. Cooke] wants to put it there," the governor said, adding, "Let me just say, we're not diminishing our efforts to bring an NFL team to Baltimore."

The governor also said he doubted that Mr. Cooke would attempt to block another NFL team from moving to Baltimore, even if he intends to move the Redskins to Laurel. Mr. Cooke suggested that NFL bylaws give him authority to keep another team from moving within a 75-mile radius of the Redskins, but declined to say whether he would attempt to exercise such power if another NFL franchise demonstrated interest in Baltimore.

"Mr. Cooke said he's a man of great honor. He said I was a man of honor. So, I expect he will abide by and not try to stop our efforts," the governor said.

Others offered varying views of Mr. Cooke's comments.

* Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, said: "I don't know where he gets his assertion that we can't support two teams. We did it for 30 years."

Mr. Rosenberg also disagreed with Mr. Cooke's view that a new football stadium at Baltimore's Camden Yards would rob Redskin fans of parking lot space for pre- and post-game tailgate parties.

"There is a place where people can go to tailgate in Baltimore," he said. "It's called the Inner Harbor."

* Sen. John A. Pica Jr., head of Baltimore's Senate delegation, said that Mr. Cooke "knows better than to think he has legal authority to block a team. He's setting up the NFL for a major lawsuit if he does that."

* Del. Timothy F. Maloney, a Prince George's County Democrat, also questioned whether the league's 75-mile radius restriction could withstand an anti-trust challenge in the courts. But he said that a legal battle is not the way to lure a team to Maryland.

"If you're reduced to paying lawyers in an antitrust fight, the ballgame is over," Mr. Maloney said. "You have to have a willing franchise come to a willing state for a willing price. You're not going to resolve this through sports litigation."

He said he thought that Mr. Cooke was "right about one thing: We have to stop this fighting between the 410 and 301 area codes and realize we truly are one state, and the two major urban markets are moving together. . . . People in 50 years will look back on a unified region and wonder what all the fighting was about."

* Incoming House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., an Allegany County Democrat, said that everybody has an opinion about how many teams the Baltimore-Washington market can support. "But a situation like that, I'd be looking for some expert advice from somebody," he said. "Professional marketing people need to shed some light on that. Those kinds of statements are easy for anybody to make."

"I guess if you go by history, history indicates the Colts and the Redskins were both very marketable and profitable. Whether marketing conditions have changed that much over the years, I'm not educated enough to know," Mr. Taylor said.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Prince George's Democrat, expressed hope that differences between Mr. Cooke and Mr. Schaefer can be worked out when the two men meet again Monday.

The Schaefer administration and legislators agreed in mid-December to give the governor and his aides 60 days to report back on whether there is a bona fide chance of Baltimore getting another NFL franchise. The Los Angeles Rams have expressed interest in Baltimore, and a local group is one of three trying to buy the New England Patriots.

Administration officials and legislators also agreed to launch an independent study of road and other infrastructure costs associated with building a stadium in Laurel, but negotiations aimed at getting that study under way appear to have stalled.

Mark L. Wasserman, secretary of economic and employment development, said that the inability to reach agreement among state, county and Redskins officials could delay the whole process.

"I'm sure we'll continue to work at achieving the objective that was agreed upon, but this may cost us some time," he said.

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