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Jewish World Review
May 22, 2006
/ 24 Iyar, 5766
NFL owners gather to play stadium game
When NFL owners gather in Denver next tomorrow, they could announce that the league intends to re-enter the Los
Angeles/Anaheim market by the end of the decade. The owners will also discuss how the search for a new Commissioner to
replace the retiring Paul Tagliabue is going. The 65-year-old Tagliabue had hoped to be out of office by July, but the owners
don't seem to have a leading candidate in mind, although the Fritz Pollard Alliance - a self-described "affinity group of
minorities serving in front office, coaching and scouting positions in the National Football League" - has suggested that four
minority candidates should be considered.
Oddly enough, FPA founder Cyrus Mehri, who was instrumental in devising the NFL's current policy requiring teams to
interview minority applicants for head coaching vacancies, would not identify the candidates. Mehri's list has been forwarded to
Korn-Ferry International, the executive recruitment company hired by league owners to find a replacement. Mehri is pleased
that the league "will embrace the diverse candidate slate for this search, and one or more minority candidates are seriously
considered for this job."
It's unlikely that the owners' meeting will produce any selection fireworks like those that ensued in 1989, when New Orleans
Saints General Manager Jim Finks was snubbed by a group of 11 owners in favor of Tagliabue, but at some point the owners
will have to get around to picking someone, and that might be a battle. Thus far, three names have emerged as possible
replacements - the NFL's chief operating officer, Roger Goodell, Atlanta Falcons general manager Rich McKay, and
Baltimore Ravens president Dick Cass.
The other major issue before NFL owners is cut and dry. Should the league reinstall a team in Los Angeles or Anaheim? The
owners have been saying for years that the league should have a presence in Los Angeles. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
has been a big proponent. He's not moving there, but another big Los Angeles supporter is San Diego Chargers owner Alex
Spanos,who has spent six years looking for a new San Diego stadium.
Spanos, who once owned the USFL's Los Angeles Express, has a buyout clause with San Diego officials that could set him
free by 2008. Meanwhile, the NFL has until May 31 to purchase 53 acres of land next to Angel Stadium on city-owned
property that would cost about $50 million. The league would have the option of putting the stadium amid a "sports and
entertainment complex," with 750,000 square feet of commercial space, a 500-unit hotel, and up to 700 residential units.
Earlier this month, An 11-member NFL owners committee listened to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Los
Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle talk about the virtues of the Los Angeles market, but
the trio also warned that the NFL should not expect public subsidies to build a new Anaheim Stadium or refurbish the L.A.
Coliseum. A new or rebuilt Southern California stadium could cost as much as $800 million. For reference, the new
Meadowlands stadium will cost the Giants' and Jets' ownership about $700 million,but New Jersey will pick up the
Schwarzenegger, who has said he wants two teams in Los Angeles,believes the stadium construction costs should be paid by
private investors, but if the NFL has to find money to build the stadium, it will probably rule out putting an expansion team (or
teams) in Los Angeles and/or Anaheim. The last time the NFL expanded, in 1999, it charged Houston investors $700 million
for the franchise. Not coincidentally, Houston beat out Los Angeles for the league's 32nd team because Houston provided
public financing for a new stadium while Los Angeles had no public money for rebuilding the Coliseum or constructing a
stadium in nearby Carson. It appears history may repeat itself.
Meanwhile, Spanos and his staff have the right to negotiate with other cities in San Diego County until year's end, and then to
other cities.San Antonio and Las Vegas have already let it be known that they would like to talk to Spanos.
Once possible match would be the San Francisco 49ers organization, which is looking for a new home to replace the
outmoded Monster (nee Candlestick) Park. In 1997, San Francisco voters approved a referendum that would have built a
stadium-mall at Candlestick Point. But when 49ers owner Edward De Bartolo ran into legal difficulties and was forced to sell
the team to his sister, Denise De Bartolo-York, and her husband, they were not interested in the deal,and are still looking for a
new home. Could the 49ers have an interest in Los Angeles? The Raiders' lease in Oakland is done in 2011. Might the Raiders
ownership look south to Tinseltown?
Three other teams might also be on the Los Angeles-Anaheim list. Saints owner Tom Benson was forced back to New
Orleans after spending the 2005 season in San Antonio because of Hurricane Katrina. No one knows what the future will hold
in New Orleans, but the vital signs are not good for New Orleans's economic future, Reggie Bush's presence notwithstanding.
In Minnesota, Vikings owner Zygmunt Wilf is trying to persuade state legislators to fund a football stadium with retail
development in suburban Blaine. Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson isn't sure his team can survive in Western New York under
the terms of the new NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement. (Speaking of the new CBA, that too will be addressed in Denver,
as a revenue sharing plan needs to be formulated.)
Three months after the Super Bowl, NFL teams are already back at practice, but the real action isn't on the field - it's in a hotel
boardroom in Denver.
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JWR contributor Evan Weiner is a syndicated radio commentator. Comment by clicking here.
05/15/06: A legal groundswell builds beneath baseball
05/05/06: Four Years Later, Baseball Finds an Owner in D.C.
05/01/06: Turmoil brews beneath NFL's newfound tranquility
04/24/06: NFL and small town America wherewithal
04/21/06: The Two Scariest Words in Baseball: Salary Cap
04/18/06: Why the major leagues succeed
04/17/06: Fans welcome new stadiums; will stadiums welcome fans?
04/10/06: Fans welcome new stadiums; will stadiums welcome fans?
04/07/06: Don't mess with a congressman/sports fanatic
04/05/06: Los Angles loses yet again
04/04/06: NCAA's highest stakes are first beginning
04/03/06: The real reason Major League Baseball is worried about cheating
03/31/06: Baseball buoyant, better than ever
03/30/06: Affording to be in the big leagues
© 2006, Evan Weiner