Tagliabue blames Cleveland for move Says 'unlevel field' created by funding of other projects

January 29, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Commissioner Paul Tagliabue apparently telegraphed the reason the NFL plans to give for approving the move of the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore during a television appearance yesterday.

In an interview on ABC's "This Week with David Brinkley," Tagliabue said an "unlevel playing field" is created when communities build stadiums and arenas for other sports but not for the NFL.

When asked if constant team movement would leave the league in an incoherent state, Tagliabue said: "I think it'll destroy what has taken 75 years to build. . . . intense fan loyalty and tradition. We recognize that. . . .

"At the same time, when the government comes in in certain communities and builds stadiums for competitors, builds arenas for competitors with public financing, it creates an unlevel playing field. We have to compete in the environment where the playing field is not level. We have some severe problems. That's why we're trying to resolve them."

That was a reference to Cleveland, which has had tremendous fan support for the Browns but has built a baseball stadium for the Indians and an arena for the NBA Cavaliers without building a stadium for the Browns.

At a meeting in Chicago on Feb. 8-9, NFL owners are expected to approve the move of the Browns to Baltimore, although Tagliabue remains committed to trying to get a team for Cleveland.

When Tagliabue was asked where he was going to get teams for Baltimore and Cleveland if the league doesn't expand, he said: "If expansion down the road becomes a part of the solution of this problem and we can see our way to expand as part of a solution, then we'll pursue that alternative. If the market doesn't xTC support teams in other communities, then we'll have to look at other alternatives."

Asked what the other alternatives are, he replied: "Other alternatives may have to be relocating a team which is not supported where it is."

Owners don't like expansion, Tagliabue said, because it means dividing the television revenue more ways.

"You can't keep dividing the pie and lower the revenue on a per-club basis as your costs are escalating. Forced expansion makes no sense," he said.

Although Tagliabue doesn't want to be ordered to expand by Congress, he continued to lobby for an antitrust exemption.

Tagliabue's appearance came during a show devoted to franchise movement. Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine, who is trying to stop cities from using tax-exempt bonds to build stadiums to lure teams from other cities, appeared along with Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

"Where was this moral righteousness in 1984 when the Colts were taken out of town?" Schmoke said in response to DeWine. "There was no outrage in the halls of Congress at that time. Why is there now?"

DeWine had said that, because Baltimore will build a stadium with tax-exempt bonds, it would cost federal taxpayers $36 million.

"There is no good reason for a taxpayer in Cleveland to send money to Washington that is used by Baltimore to steal his team," DeWine said.

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