Cincinnati Bengals president Mike Brown said for the first time yesterday that he no longer believes a football stadium will be built in Cincinnati, prompting speculation that he may move the team after the 1995 season.
Brown is frustrated that the city hasn't taken steps to get funding for a new stadium since he announced last month that his lease at Riverfront Stadium was breached by a late payment.
"The answer may be in," Brown told reporters in Cincinnati. "It probably means there isn't going to be a new football stadium in Cincinnati. I'm not encouraged that there have been any advances."
Brown had one meeting with City Manager Jon Shirey, whose position is that the Bengals' lease hasn't been breached, but didn't make any progress at it.
With the owners poised to vote tomorrow in Dallas on whether to allow the Los Angeles Rams to move to St. Louis, Brown said he hasn't had any discussion with officials from Los Angeles.
But when he was asked if he had met with officials of any other city, he declined to comment.
John Moag, head of the Maryland Stadium Authority, also declined to comment when he was asked if he had recently met with Brown, but made it obvious he'd welcome Brown if he wants to move.
"Mike Brown is one of the classiest acts in football," Moag said. "We'd be a great place for him to think about."
Baltimore is the only city in the country that has the funding in place to build an open-air, football-only stadium.
Brown has been sympathetic to Baltimore in the past. When the owners approved the Washington Redskins' proposed move to Laurel last year -- though owner Jack Kent Cooke now says his preference is to build a stadium in Prince George's County -- Brown voted no on the grounds that the Redskins could have the Washington or Baltimore market but not both.
When Brown was asked if he planned to play the 1995 season in Cincinnati, he said, "That's our position." He declined to comment on his position for 1996.
The son of the late Paul Brown, the legendary coach who founded the Cleveland Browns and Bengals, Mike Brown doesn't have any other business besides football. Free agency, which has raised players' pay despite the salary cap, has put him in a financial squeeze because the Bengals are a low-revenue team at Riverfront Stadium.
"It stretched us," Brown said.
Although Brown would need the approval of 23 owners to move, several indicated last month in Phoenix that they would support a move by Brown, who is well-respected by his fellow owners.
Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, said, "I'd be very supportive of them if they decided to make a move."
Dan Rooney, president of the Pittsburgh Steelers, said, "I think he'd have a lot of support."
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue even specifically mentioned the Bengals at the Phoenix meeting as a team that could move.
When he talked about St. Louis, Tagliabue said, "Whether it's the Rams or the Bengals or any other team, the interest is there."