NFL's policies on team moves will be enforced, Tagliabue says

January 29, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- The NFL can legally block teams from moving, commissioner Paul Tagliabue said at his annual Super Bowl news conference yesterday.

The issue arose when Tagliabue was asked about the possibility of the Los Angeles Rams moving. The team is exploring the possibility of relocating, and Rams executive vice president John Shaw has expressed interest in Baltimore.

"I don't want to comment specifically on the Rams or any other possible team move," Tagliabue said. "We have policies which are designed to encourage continuity. They are designed to encourage, to require teams to maintain traditions. They require teams to show some financial need and some financial basis for moving.

"We're going to apply those policies to the Rams and any other teams that might seek to move. It's our intention to adhere to the policies."

Because the NFL lost a court fight to stop the Raiders from moving from Oakland, Calif., to Los Angeles, he was asked why he thought he could stop a team now.

"The court of appeals for the Ninth Circuit in some of the decisions in the Raiders case as well as in the San Diego Clippers case as well as in the other cases indicated that a league could have reasonable rules to control movement, and we think we have reasonable rules," he said.

The NFL adopted new guidelines for relocation after the Raiders' move, but they haven't been tested in court.

In the last question of the news conference, he was asked to give an example of a team the NFL stopped from moving.

"In 1984, [former commissioner] Pete Rozelle sued the Eagles to prevent them from moving out of Philadelphia. I also had conversations with Victor Kiam where I told him he was not going to move the Patriots out of New England and if he did, we'd probably sue him.

"If you give me a few minutes to think about more examples, we could probably come up with more examples, but the press conference is now at a close because [league spokesman] Greg Aiello needs to get to lunch."

The Rams have indicated that they intend to give 15 months' notice to the city of Anaheim, Calif., that they have the right to move for the 1995 season, but haven't said if they would ask the league to approve the move the way it did in 1988, when the Cardinals moved from St. Louis to Phoenix.

Earlier in the news conference, Tagliabue also was asked if Baltimore would be precluded from getting a team if Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke built a stadium in Laurel.

"As to whether the Redskins building that stadium would preclude or not preclude a team in Baltimore, I think is going to be addressed probably by Mr. Cooke and Governor [William Donald] Schaefer, so I would defer to them at least until they have had some further discussions," he said.

Tagliabue, though, made it obvious he likes the idea of the proposed Redskins stadium in Laurel.

Talking about Cooke's various attempts to build a stadium, he said, "They were in Virginia for a short time, and then they were back in the District, and now they're somewhere between the District and elsewhere."

He added: "On the Redskins building a stadium in Maryland, I said before that I think RFK is in many ways at the low end of the facilities in the league. In the lower deck, you probably have 10,000 fans who have to stand to see the entire game because if they sit down they can't see the field.

"So a 78,000-seat stadium -- open-air, grass field with all the amenities of a great state-of-the-art facility -- would be good for the Redskins fans, and it would be good for the Redskins and would be good for the NFL."

Tagliabue also said he's not worried about the financial stability of the Carolina Panthers, even though Flagstar Cos. Inc. lost $1.6 billion in the last quarter of 1993. Flagstar chairman Jerry Richardson is the Panthers' owner.

"We don't have any concern. We looked at the finances of Jerry Richardson and his company very closely," he said. "I have some understanding that part of the $1.6 billion loss has to do with tax accounting, but another point of view is that if you're rich enough to lose $1.6 billion, you're rich enough to be in the NFL.

"The short answer is that Jerry has a very solid operation, and we're delighted to have him in the league."

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