Tagliabue's aim is team in St. Louis

March 17, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

PHOENIX -- Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said yesterday that his goal is to wind up with NFL teams in both Anaheim, Calif., and St. Louis.

"The strong consensus should be to have teams in both places. I'm going to start working on it tomorrow," said Tagliabue, winding up the annual owners' March meetings yesterday after the owners voted Wednesday 21-3, with six abstentions, to block the Los Angeles Rams' move to St. Louis.

Tagliabue stressed St. Louis should have patience.

"One of the easiest things to do is file lawsuits," he said. "In most cases, it's counterproductive."

He cited St. Louis' football tradition as one of the reasons why it should get a team, but gave no details about how he planned to accomplish the goal.

Since Baltimore has a football tradition and the funding for a stadium, he was asked what his reaction would be if a team tried to move to Baltimore.

"I think in the Washington-Baltimore area, my priority is the Redskins," Tagliabue said. "I think they have a major stadium problem just as I think we need to work hard in Cleveland, Cincinnati and elsewhere. When that's resolved, then I think we can see where we are in the Washington-Baltimore area."

Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke has opposed a team in Baltimore.

Even though Tagliabue stressed patience for St. Louis, John Shaw, the Rams executive vice president, said it's likely the team will file a suit by March 31. The Rams made a standstill agreement with the league that if their move was rejected, the Rams were free to file by March 31.

"I think we'll be very aggressive," Shaw said.

Shaw said the Rams probably won't try to get an injunction to play in St. Louis this fall and likely will play somewhere in Southern California.

Shaw said the Rams have a potential to win $2 billion in damages in the suit -- the $25 million profit they'd make in St. Louis trebled to $75 million in antitrust cases over the 30-year term of the lease.

Shaw also said the Rams offered the league "in excess of $25 million" to settle with the league, but the offer was rejected.

Despite the league's vote to stop the Rams, it's obvious that teams with stadium problems will continue to explore their options.

Art Modell, the owner of the Cleveland Browns, said yesterday that he meets the league's guidelines for moving even though he voted in the majority when the owners rejected a Rams move.

"The Rams didn't meet our criteria, but I'd pass with flying colors if I were so inclined to put it to a test," Modell said. "There's no contest from an earnings point of view."

Modell, who has said in the past that he might sell the team to somebody who might move it, didn't rule out putting it to a test in the future.

"I don't want to make that sound like a veiled threat," he said. "I don't intend to go before the league until I exhaust all other opportunities."

TTC He said that "first and foremost," he wants to stay in the Cleveland area, but said the condition of Cleveland Stadium and his revenue picture easily meets the moving guidelines.

"I fit them significantly more than anybody else, maybe more than anybody else in the league: age of the stadium, condition of the stadium and financial performance," he said.

He also said he's been dealing in good faith with the city of Cleveland. The Rams were accused of not dealing in good faith with Anaheim.

"Nobody can question I've been doing it in good faith. We've been doing it for 18 months," he said.

There are three other clubs whose futures are up in the air.

The Los Angeles Raiders haven't signed a lease for this fall, the Cincinnati Bengals contend their lease has been breached and are free to move after the 1995 season and the new owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Malcolm Glazer, has promised to keep the team there for only two years.

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