Irsay was no picture of good will

June 28, 1994|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Sun Staff Writer

Among the changes experienced by Baltimore Colts players when Robert Irsay purchased the team in 1972 were new restrictions on publicity photos, which were once given away free to fans, according to two ex-players.

Former Colts stars Johnny Unitas and Tom Matte, in affidavits filed in federal court last week as part of a trademark suit by the National Football League against the Canadian Football League, said they were asked to pay for many of the photos the team had routinely given away after the team was sold.

"During the 1950s and 1960s, the Baltimore Colts built an extremely strong reputation within the city of Baltimore," Unitas said in his affidavit.

He used to autograph up to 3,000 photos a week, he said. The team then paid for the postage to send them to fans who requested them.

After Irsay took over, the team required the players to pay for each photo beyond the first 25 sent out and for the postage on all the shots, Unitas said. His salary made it impossible for him to answer all the requests, he said.

Matte said he used to send 500 photos a week but stopped when the team charged him postage for all the pictures and $1 each over the first 25.

"This change typifies the manner in which the Baltimore Colts operated between 1972 and 1984 under Robert Irsay. As a result, the good will that had been laboriously created under the prior ownership was swiftly eroded," Matte's filing said.

The affidavits were filed last week by the CFL Colts as part of their defense against NFL allegations that the new team was unlawfully profiting from the goodwill established by the NFL Colts, a franchise that played in Baltimore from 1953 until it moved to Indianapolis in 1984.

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