Anaheim's ill-advised action could end with Rams on the move


March 27, 1994|By VITO STELLINO

There's a new form of March madness.

It involves politicians making ill-advised moves in March that cost their cities NFL teams.

It was 10 years ago tomorrow that Colts owner Bob Irsay ordered the moving vans to haul his team out of Baltimore to Indianapolis

Irsay had been urged by his attorney, Michael Chernoff, to make the move for several weeks, but was having problems pulling the trigger.

What pushed him into doing it was the ill-fated decision by the Maryland legislature to pass an eminent-domain bill. That gave Chernoff the ammunition to persuade Irsay to move.

The City Council in Anaheim, Calif., and school district officials there seemed to be stealing a page from the Maryland legislature last week, when they sent the Los Angeles Rams an eviction notice from the converted school they use as a training facility.

The two sides are in a dispute over the lease, but Anaheim is likely to be the loser if the Rams are evicted.

It just will give John Shaw, the team's executive vice president, more ammunition to persuade owner Georgia Frontiere to move next year.

In a statement, Shaw said he was "shocked and disappointed" by the action.

He probably was just about as shocked as the police inspector was in "Casablanca" to find out that they were gambling at Rick's.

Shaw probably was trying to hide a smile because this might make it easier for him to make a case to Frontiere that the Rams must move.

He already has persuaded her to give 15 months notice on May 3, which will free the team to play elsewhere in 1995.

All this doesn't mean the Rams will move or that they'll move to Baltimore. The Washington Redskins and the league are likely to fight a move to Baltimore and will try to steer the Rams to St. Louis if they decide to move.

But no less an authority on moving than Irsay said last week at the owners' meetings that teams are free to move.

"The [league] constitution says they can," he said. "I don't know if any team is moving now, but we did it."

Actually, the league has put in a new set of guidelines since Irsay moved, but they never have been tested in court.

Maybe the Rams can call Irsay for the Mayflower phone number.

The name game

The CFL Colts have done one thing to make them popular in Baltimore: They have annoyed Irsay.

The Colts owner said last week he doesn't like the Baltimore team using the Colts name.

"I think it stinks. I don't think it's right. If they want to buy it or go

to court to find out, let them go. There are so many names you could use, why go back on an old line? The Colts came all the way from Texas. They didn't originate in Baltimore," he said.

When Irsay was told the team was called the Texans in Dallas and the Colts name was used by a Baltimore team in the All-America Football Conference, he said, "That was another name they used. Let them use Baltimore Zebras. I don't care. Carroll [Rosenbloom] won a big case with a beer company for a million some dollars trying to use that name, so we'll test it again."

It's unclear what case he was referring to.

Although the CFL Colts have filed a pre-emptive strike by going to court first in an attempt to use the name, Irsay said the NFL will try to block it.

"To the best of my knowledge, they are talking to them and they [NFL] intend to fight it," Irsay said.

Irsay wasn't satisfied by the addition of CFL to the Colts name. "I think it's too close to what it was before," he said.

The suspicion is that Irsay is much more upset about the nickname than the league is.

When commissioner Paul Tagliabue was asked if the league would fight the CFL Colts nickname, he gave one of his typical rambling replies that didn't answer the question.

"I don't think we want to fight anybody on the use of the name other than to protect a trademark which is being actively used. To the extent that the Colts trademark is being actively used in a variety of areas including 'Throwback' type items, we would certainly want to protect the trademark, but we hope we can resolve that," he said.

When a league spokesman was asked if that was a yes or a no answer, he checked with a league attorney and said a response still was being formulated.

The league may have to fight the CFL Colts in court just to keep Irsay happy, though it's a no-win proposition for the NFL. Even if the NFL wins, it would just give the CFL more publicity and make the team more popular in Baltimore.

An endorsement

You'll never guess which NFL owner has joined Norman Braman of the Philadelphia Eagles in predicting Baltimore is going to get an NFL team.

Would you believe Art Modell?

Yes, the same Cleveland Browns owner who left the expansion meeting in November with instructions to his son to vote for Jacksonville, Fla., even though his minority partner, Al Lerner, was backing the Baltimore bid.

Now Modell is taking a different tack.

"I think Baltimore is a fabulous place and they're going to get a franchise sooner than later," Modell said last week.

How does he think the city will get one?

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