NFL has played right into hands of CFL, Speros

July 22, 1994|By JOHN STEADMAN

Much of what the Canadian Football League has accomplished in winning friends and influencing people -- specifically in Baltimore -- is attributable to a most unexpected, attention-getting source. Take a bow, National Football League.

By attempting to deny Baltimore the name Colts that it originated here in 1947, it has turned the present team owner, Jim Speros, into a folk hero and brought a focus to the CFL that otherwise would not have been possible. Millions of advertising dollars couldn't have achieved such a result. It equates to a momentous backlash in behalf of Baltimore.

As a pertinent sidelight, a man with an NFL background offered a suggestion three months ago to one of commissioner Paul Tagliabue's chief assistants. He told him the league would conceivably "win by losing" if it gave Baltimore the right to the name Colts and quietly withdrew from the type of dispute that is now ensuing.

It would have been a gesture that had the appearance of being magnanimous and the NFL could have reveled in the action. In reality, such a move would have been "giving" something to Baltimore it inherently owned but it also would have been a public relations coup for the NFL. The nickname Colts is part of the city's birthright.

The NFL had nothing, absolutely zero, to do with origination of the name. This is a matter of irrefutable public record. Even the NFL dunderheads will admit to that. However, it preferred to proceed with legal pressure, ignoring what was intended as a noble effort that was put forth with the hope it would at least offer a modicum of goodwill toward Baltimore.

Had the NFL informed the Baltimore CFL to go ahead with the name Colts, it would have come away looking good instead of acting the part of an arrogant bully. In retrospect, the best thing that has so far happened to Baltimore and the CFL was when the rich and mighty NFL proceeded to court to stop use of the name Colts. If offended all fair-thinking people.

The NFL has further embarrassed itself by sending a high-powered legal team into action to fight Baltimore, even after its own organization, NFL Properties, had failed to officially renew its so-called patent. Be forever remindful that this is the same NFL that stomped on Baltimore when it wanted to become part of its expansion plan.

To provoke further pain and animosity, the league followed up its rejection of Baltimore by trying to assert what is contrived as a bogus "ownership" to the name Colts by dragging the entire subject through the courts.

With the NFL being so antagonistic in trying to damage Baltimore, a city that played a vital part in its overall success, it thereby provided Speros the forum to sell his CFL product. Speros is an underdog only because the NFL made him one. The world outside the NFL quickly responds in a protective manner to those being abused, which is what is happening to Baltimore.

The best thing Speros could do is to set a precedent for all sports. If the NFL prevails and prohibits him from designating his team the Colts then he should play the rest of the season without a name. Just go with Baltimore. Leave the logo as is because it translates to Colts.

The idea to use Baltimore as his only name will offer continuing fascination with what's happening here. It will equate to positive reaction in Baltimore and in parts of two countries, America and Canada.

What's going on now also offers an intriguing twist to Baltimore sports. Peter Angelos, owner of the Orioles, has so far resisted all opportunities to return Baltimore to his team's road uniforms. At the same time, he proclaims he is proud to be from Highlandtown -- which, so far as we know, is happy to be included in the confines of Baltimore.

On one hand, Speros is fighting to give Baltimore what it wants, the name Colts, while Angelos estranges himself by refusing to put Baltimore on the team's road uniforms. It's a rather ambiguous position, a strange contrast, that makes no sense.

Angelos is pleased to own the club in his adopted hometown, but, so far, is listening to rockhead advisers who are telling him not to dress the Orioles in shirts that have the city's name across the front. It's an indignity that has no adequate explanation.

Speros, meanwhile, has a ready-made situation to ingratiate himself with the audience. Turn the negative into a positive. If the legal verdict goes against him, just call the team Baltimore. f fTC phony nickname, such as Stallions, which the NFL wanted Speros to take if he would back off using Colts, would be totally self-defeating.

Hopefully, he won't surrender decency and principle.

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