It's time for city to stand up for its rightful name Baltimore Colts

February 14, 1994|By John Steadman

What needs to happen at a time like this is for someone, somewhere, to tell the National Football League it is not going to be bullied, threatened or coerced. Baltimore must stand up and be counted. In this connection, it must fight for the right, if that's necessary, to use the name Baltimore Colts for a Canadian Football League team and be willing to go all the way to the Supreme Court to defend such a position.

The name was invented in 1947, the result of a write-in contest. The NFL had nothing to do with such a designation. Baltimore then was in the All-America Football Conference; not the NFL, which played no part with originating the name. Such facts can be fully documented.

For the NFL to say it has rights to what is in the public domain is like commissioner Paul Tagliabue saying he, not Thomas Edison, invented the light bulb.

If Baltimore is going to take this without standing up for itself, then it has suddenly lost character, self-respect and integrity and doesn't deserve to have a team in any kind of a league, be it the CFL, NFL or Epworth League.

An impressive documentation, with a strong lineup of witnesses, can be presented to substantiate the name was born here and belongs to Baltimore. We can even take Jim Speros, who wants to establish the CFL in Baltimore, to the man who contributed the name, if need be.

Speros will be setting a poor example for a club owner if he caves in to threats by the NFL. He should be eager to go to court and establish the truth. Imagine the reaction in the national press when it becomes aware of what the NFL is threatening to do to Baltimore. The NFL and Tagliabue will be scorched and savaged.

If the NFL had any sensitivity, it would not be trying to use scare tactics against Baltimore and the CFL. The perfect public relations move would be for Tagliabue to pull back and say it will not contest use of the name Baltimore Colts. That would make him look like a "big-un", as they say in Texas, instead of a bush leaguer who is badly in need of some advice from retired commissioner Pete Rozelle.

Baltimore has been plundered and raped by the NFL on two occasions, first in 1984 when the team pulled out under the cover of darkness for Indianapolis, and again last November when it was dismembered, similar to what happens to the victim of an ax murder, as it applied for an expansion club. Now the NFL wants to steal a Baltimore football birthright.

Speros announced that research by attorneys showed the NFL was remiss in renewing its right to a copyright. It had expired, so he's on solid ground to establish the full name, Baltimore Colts.

Hall of Fame player John Mackey always adds "Baltimore Colts" under his signature when he gives an autograph. Other former players do the same. They don't want any link to Indianapolis because of the way Baltimore was robbed of the franchise. Many of them felt Tagliabue would correct the wrong, but, instead of doing the honorable thing, he took the NFL to Jacksonville, a tank-town.

As plans are readied to welcome the CFL, after the NFL rejection, there's also hope that Speros, a native of Potomac, will bring some Baltimore leaders into the ownership fold. John Paterakas, Henry Rosenberg, Bill Jews, Chip Mason and one or two others are possible partners in the effort.

NFL Properties says it still uses the name Baltimore Colts to sell what it calls "Throwbacks" merchandise. Such brass. It has no right to pilfer the name in such an illegal fashion. Speros should institute legal action to make them stop.

If Baltimore wasn't considered good enough to be in the NFL, and that's what Tagliabue dictated, then how can he continue to make money off the good name Baltimore Colts? If the league is in such desperate shape, then maybe Baltimore residents can ** pass the hat to take up a collection and send Tagliabue a check, or a few dollars, to pay for lunch.

Let the NFL scream and holler. It is a monopoly. You only have to look at the player draft to know it represents a restraint of trade, an awareness that has concerned and even frightened the NFL for 40 years.

The only reason it still exists in any form is it hasn't been properly attacked by a smart lawyer or a member of the Congress who makes it a priority and refuses to cut a deal or back off.

The name Baltimore Colts, as those with any semblance of truth realize, belongs to Baltimore. The NFL has stripped everything else from Baltimore. It should not be allowed to plunder our good name.

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