Braman promises city will get NFL team

January 12, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman, who was honored by Baltimore civic and political leaders last night for supporting the city's NFL expansion effort, promised that an existing team will move here.

"I sincerely believe that Baltimore will have an NFL club in the very near future," Braman said. "I believe that a team, an existing club, will move here.

"I know firsthand, from conversations I've had with two owners who are seriously considering moving their clubs to this city. Neither club is interested in using [Baltimore] as leverage to obtain better financial arrangements in the city that they're in at the present time. Both are sincerely interested in coming to this city for what this city can do for them," he said.

Braman, the only owner who supported Baltimore to the end when Jacksonville, Fla., was awarded the second expansion franchise on Nov. 30, was given a proclamation by Gov. William Donald Schaefer that declared Jan. 11, 1994, as Norman Braman Day in Maryland.

Braman got a standing ovation when he closed his speech by saying, "I promise you," Baltimore will get a team.

His promise comes one day before the 25th anniversary of the New York Jets' victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, a victory that Jets quarterback Joe Namath "guaranteed."

Braman did not identify the owners he is talking to.

The Los Angeles Rams have told the city of Anaheim they plan to give 15 months' notice on May 3, which means they can break their lease and move by Aug. 3, 1995.

The New England Patriots are for sale and Robert Schulman, the lawyer who represents a Baltimore group that has submitted a bid for them, said he has not heard from Bruce Evans, the Goldman Sachs executive who is conducting the bidding, since the bid was submitted.

Braman also didn't address how the teams interested in moving to Baltimore would handle the opposition of the Washington Redskins and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

NFL rules require a move to be approved by 21 owners.

"I believe that any club that will come here will come here in accordance with the rules of the NFL," Braman said.

Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke has said Baltimore and Washington are becoming one market, and that he wants to make the Redskins a regional franchise by building a stadium in Laurel.

Although he didn't mention the Redskins owner in his speech, Braman said the Redskins "were very prosperous when the Baltimore Colts were very prosperous."

He added: "This area is big enough for big clubs."

Schaefer, who has met with Cooke twice in the past two weeks, also said Washington and Baltimore aren't one market.

"Oh, no, that's ridiculous," the governor said. "That's the only thing that I'll comment on [about the Redskins]. Mr. Cooke, he knows the Redskins and the Colts in the past have been able to go side by side.

"[There are] two absolutely distinct markets, one in Washington where the fans are Washington fans, and the other in the Baltimore area, which are the old Colts fans. There's no question they would both sell out for the foreseeable future. No question about it."

He noted the Redskins have 48,000 people on their season-ticket waiting list, and that Baltimore sold out an exhibition game and 100 sky boxes and 7,500 club seats when it was bidding for an expansion team.

"There's enough of a TV market and enough of a regular market to handle both clubs without any trouble. It's two separate markets, no question about it," Schaefer said.

When Braman was asked why he was so interested in Baltimore, he said it's "based on why I purchased the Philadelphia Eagles."

He said he bought the Eagles in 1984 to keep them from moving to Phoenix, and that he thinks Baltimore should be in the NFL.

"I said it a million times: It's not necessarily what the NFL or either of these clubs are going to do for the city of Baltimore; it's what you created in this city to attract a potential franchise to move here," he said.

He said the two owners were impressed by the city's presentation even though they voted, 26-2, for the recommendation for Jacksonville. Braman and New England Patriots owner James Busch Orthwein, who supported St. Louis, voted against it.

Braman, who said he has been deluged with mail from friends and fans in Baltimore thanking him for supporting the city's NFL effort, said he was touched to get the proclamation at the dinner sponsored by the Greater Baltimore Committee.

"I've never had in my life a proclamation from a city or a state in my honor. I thought of my father, who came to the United States from Poland at the turn of the century and was a barber in Philly and never made more than $75 a week in his life. My mom came here when she was 12 and worked as a seamstress in a factory," he said.

He also said the evening wasn't a wake, and vowed to return to celebrate when Baltimore gets a team.

"I'll be back," he said.

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