Congress should prevent the relocation of NFL Teams

15 Apr

In exchange for granting the NFL an anti-trust exemption necessary for the NFL-AFL merger, the late commissioner Pete Rozelle assured Congress that none of the 25 franchises involved in the merger would be moved.

He said "Professional football operations will be preserved in the 23 cities and 25 stadiums where such operations are presently being conducted. This alone is a matter of considerable public interest – to local economies, stadium authorities and consumers. Without the plan, franchise moves and/or franchise failures will occur as a matter of course within the next few years."

What Pete Rozelle promised would not happen.... has been happening for over 30 years.

Teams have moved to other cities – lured by bigger markets and the construction of new stadiums that generate more money for the owners. Almost all of these stadiums were built using billions of dollars in taxpayer money.

Some people would argue that this is just free-market enterprise and that owners should be allowed to move their business anywhere they want to. In fact, the courts ruled - over the objections of the NFL - that Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders could move to LA in 1982.  Since then, the owners have cited that court ruling to say their hands are tied and they can't prevent this from happening in other cities.

Actually, the owners themselves can prevent this from happening.

NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell says he wants the Bills to remain in Buffalo, but the owners have the final say on that issue. It will be hard for them to say no – especially if the relocation of a team can generate more revenue for the League. Remember, the owners share revenues, so if the pie gets bigger, they all reap the benefits. 

If the NFL won't keep the promise made by Pete Rozelle, then it's time for Congress to step in. They hold a considerable amount of leverage because they have the power to strip the League of its not-for-profit status.

Yes, you heard right. The NFL is a not-for-profit organization, because Congress gave them tax-exempt status in order to facilitate the merger of the NFL and the AFL.

Here is an article that discusses this issue: NFL still popular but Americans want it to pay taxes.

I want the team to stay in Buffalo for the same reason that all fans of pro football want their teams to stay – it's a great source of entertainment and a great source of pride for our community. If we lose the Bills, we lose a piece of our heart and soul.

For the former players that have made Buffalo and WNY their home, it would be especially disheartening. Our local Bills Alumni organization has raised over 1.2 million for local charities and the United Way and the Buffalo Bills collaborated to raise a record $21.3 million in 2013. Ubfortunately, that fundraising would probably dry up if the Bills left for greener pastures. 

Ralph Wilson always wanted the Bills to stay in Buffalo and he showed us that by signing what some experts are calling the most ironclad stadium lease they have ever seen. Nonetheless, in just six years the lease will allow the new owner to leave for a mere $28.4 million penalty.

Our Congressman, Chuck Schumer said "The lease has many, many safeguards that make it hard for the Bills to move over the next 10 years. This gives us the time to explore and evaluate all potential options for keeping the Bills in Western New York, so that we can present whomever the next owner is with viable and well-thought-out plans to keep the Bills here well beyond the next 10 years."

The NFL owners should honor the memory and legacy of Mr. Wilson by keeping the Bills where they belong – in Buffalo.

If the owners won't do it, then Congress should step in and flex their muscles.

When Senator Schumer is exploring and evaluating all potential options for keeping the Bills in Western New York, he needs to remind the NFL owners how they got their tax-exempt status and their anti-trust exemption – and how they can lose it.