The Day the Laughter Died: We're Shipping off to London



I think its awesome that football(american) is becoming more popular in England and Europe and I wouldn't even mind if a NFL franchise like the Bills happened to move there. After all the NFL is a group of private business.' No one should be able to tell a business where they can operate as long as they don't have any financial obligations else were. However often times, actually most of times, NFL teams do have a financial obligation to a city that needs to be fulfilled and I believe forcing teams to play in London is a breach of a teams contract/lease with whatever city their located in and needs to end.

Lets say for instance, what if attendance was down in Oakland. The Raiders were struggling to sell tickets because they haven't had a elite quarterback in a long time. The franchise is loosing money and Goodell wants to maximize the profit potential of the Raiders so he comes up with the idea that once a year Tom Brady will go from the Patriots to the Raiders to play in order to boost interest in Oakland and profits as well. Boston would scream, " you cant do that to us, Brady is under contract with us, hes our starting quarterback he has a obligation to play for us and only us. Goodell doesn't care and doesn't listen. He believes that by having New England make this 1 time sacrifice a year, it makes the league better by creating more interest in Oakland, and in turn increasing the profit potential in that market. This would never happen though because Tom Brady is a independent contractor who signed a contract with New England and has a financial obligation to the organization.

So how is it different for a NFL team? NFL teams are private business' owned by someone much like Tom Brady is a private independent contractor. As soon as Tom Brady signs a contract, he forfeits the freedom to play for another NFL team. So when a NFL franchise signs a contract/lease with a city, shouldn't they forfeit the freedom or ability to play in London? What is a contract after all? A contract is defined as having at least two parties coming to a lawful and binding agreement. But within every lawful contract you must have consideration. The consideration between Tom Brady and the New England Patriots is Brady playing football in exchange for the Patriots giving him a salary. That's consideration. Tom Brady provides a service and the Patriots pay him for that service. So whats the consideration between a NFL team and the city they have a contract/lease with? The consideration would be the team plays their home games in the city and in return the city provides the necessary funding through bonds(tax payers money) to build the stadium. Cities consider the millions of dollars that professional sports teams generate in revenue to their surrounding local economy worth the cost of paying for these stadiums. In fact, when the Cleveland Browns became the Baltimore Ravens, a Maryland report estimated that the team brought in a yearly 123 million dollars of revenue to the local economy. So the consideration between a city and a NFL team would be the city provides the funding for the stadium, the professional team provides the city with their product, which in return generates revenue for both. So if Goodell cant ship Tom Brady to Oakland for one game because it would be a breach of his contract, why can he ship a NFL team to London for one game? Isn't that also a breach of contract between a team and a city? The entire reason after all that cities provide funding for these stadiums is because it makes business sense for themto do so. Sometimes whats good for the geese(NFL) isn't good for the gander.(cities)



Crime Scene Date: 1996, Place of Crime: Cleveland Ohio, Crime: Relocation of Cleveland to Baltimore Suspect: Art Modell

In 1973, Art Modell signed a 25 year lease with the city of Cleveland to operate his ball club in Cleveland stadium. Modell's company, "Stadium Corporation" took control of the operational costs and Modell would pay 150 thousand dollars in the first five years of the lease and 200k from the 5th year on out. In exchange, Modell would receive any and all revenue generated from the stadium. Modell's company invested in many improvements in the stadium including luxury suites and advertisement upgrades. Renting the suites generated a new influx of revenue and Modell refused to share that revenue with the Cleveland Indians, who were at the time co-occupants of the stadium. Modell's thought process was his company had paid for the improvements in the stadium, therefore only his company shall profit from any improvements in the stadium, even though much of the revenue was created during baseball season. The result of Modell hogging the profits from the suites and advertisement allowed the Indians to make a case for their own separate stadium and in time the city of Cleveland ultimately granted them their wish.

The impact from the Indians leaving was felt immediately, Modell misjudged the financial backlash it would create and lost 21 million dollars between 1993 and 1994. After miscalculating the financial loss that the Indians departure would have on his company, Modell asked the city of Cleveland to provide 175 million dollars in tax payers money to refurbish his stadium, which suddenly didn't appear as dapper as the Indians new facilities did. With the city of Cleveland mulling over the thought of having to fork out almost another quarter billion dollars to upgrade the Browns stadium just after they completed the Indians new state of the art stadium, Modell was fast at work behind the scenes with the city of Baltimore. On November 6th 1995, Modell held a press conference and announced that he was moving the Browns to Baltimore because he felt that the city of Baltimore gave him the best opportunity to build his franchise a brand new world class stadium. Cleveland taxpayers, faced with the possibility of loosing their beloved Brown's that have been in the city of Cleveland since its inception in 1945, immediately approved the stadiums funding that Modell had requested. But it was too little too late, Modell made his mind up he wanted to go to Baltimore.

But hold on just for a moment. Didn't Modell sign a 25 year lease/contract with the city of Cleveland in 1973? 1995 minus 1973 sure doesn't add up to 25 years now does it? The Browns leaving the city of Cleveland in 1996 would of been a breach of contract and would open up Art Modell to endless lawsuits. The city of Cleveland filed a injunction against the Browns to force them to honor their lease until 1998, when their original lease was slated to end. Ticket holders and fans followed suit with their own separate suits. There's no way Modell could get away with this. Even congress weighed in with special hearings. It was becoming such a spectacle that Drew Carey a popular tv actor at the time, and the renowned price is right host held rallies reminiscent of anti-Vietnam war demonstrations against Modell. The NFL'S brand was starting to become tarnished and they decided they need to settle this as quickly as possible by mediating between Modell and the city of Cleveland. After all the smoke was settled, a compromise was brokered. Modell would be receive a new expansion franchise in Baltimore, the new stadium he coveted, and would retain any players and coaches that remained under contract. The city of Cleveland would be without a football team for 3 years but when it was to be reinstated in 1999, they would retain the Browns name, the history of the browns likeness as far as records, awards, uniforms colors would go and a new stadium as well.

Whats the take away from talking about the Browns relocation to Baltimore?

Art Modell signed a 25 year lease/contract with the city of Cleveland. When Modell announced he was moving the team to Baltimore the contract he signed was broken and the result was legal recourse from Cleveland. So how is it that Goodell can send the Bills off to play in London when the Bills have a financial obligation to the city of Buffalo? Even if its for one game a year, isn't that almost the same as Tom Brady going to the Raiders for one game a year? Or any different than Modell deciding before his contract was up that he was moving to Baltimore? I have sprint as a cell phone service provider. I had to sign a 2 contract with them in order to get the phone and service I wanted. The consideration in the contract was sprint was going to provide me with a phone service in exchange for a monthly fee from me. But recently I decided I wanted to switch to Verizon. I called sprint and told them I wanted to use a different provider. They said ok, you just have to pay 200 dollars to get out of your current contract and your free to do so. But wait I said, I don't want to. I just want to drop the service because I wont be using it anymore. Sprint tells me well, you have a contract. And in your contract it says you need to pay 200 dollars if you want to get out of your it before the contract is over. But....but....Art Modell breached his contract and was allowed to leave Cleveland, why cant I do the same? That obviously never happened but the point is when you have a contract you either fulfill the term of the contract or you can break it and face a penalty for doing so.

A team playing in London isn't a bad thing. I actually have no issues with it. If a team fulfills there lease obligations with a city and wants to move, there legally more than welcome to do so. It would suck for the cities fans but the NFL is a business. The Bills won't stay in Buffalo merely because of loyalty to the city and their fans. As any smart business would do, there going to find the best possible location to maxmize their profits. When your driving around town today, take a look around at all the fast food restaurants and their locations. Each location Burger King picks to build, they pick it because they feel that areas traffic will maximize the amount of business it receives each day. A team playing in London however could face several interesting tax situations, labor law conflicts, and visa situations for American players, however those issues are all complementary in regards to the current topic. Roger Goodell sees the London games in a positive light because it increases the popularity and market growth of the league. The teams may see it as a way of increasing the popularity of their own brands as well. But as in any game, there's always winners and losers in life. And all to often, we ignore the real losers because their voices can't be heard so easily.

Lets say for instance that the Eagles were shipped off to London to play this year. Time to look at things from a microscopic level instead of a macroscopic level. Every time the eagles play, its not just the owner, the league, and the players who make money. A lot of people work part time as vendors at the Linc from the people making you a hotdog to the people pouring you a draft beer. Sure from a macroscopic view loosing one game doesn't seem that big of a deal every once in a while. But to ordinary people and small business', they count on these games just as much as anyone. How about cops working detail and getting overtime. Or people that fly in to watch the game. They book a hotel, go out to local restaurants to eat and drink at bars. And if your not from Philadelphia, of course you gotta stop by Pats and Genos to get your cheesesteak, or maybe instead you gotta buy some famous south philly soft pretzels off of a street vendor.(On a side note, if your not from here and you do buy soft pretzels off a street vender in Philly, might want to use best your best judgement, half those guys look like they may of done some serious time a federal prison) Many people and places profit off of the Eagles playing at home 8 times a year, and even if your looking from the outside looking in it may not seem like that big of a deal, but to the people and business' on the inside looking out, its what pays their bills. Not to mention it pisses the fans off from that city.

Final Thought

Roger Goodell knows where his bread is buttered. His job is to make the owners of the NFL money. And when he makes the owners happy, the bonus he receives is reflection of the work he's done. Roger Goodell received 44.2 million dollars as a bonus last year from the owners. So if you don't think like the direction Goodell has steered the league in, you'd better just get used to it because as long as Roger boy is getting bonus' like those he's going to do whats best for the owners instead of doing whats right for the fans. All too often though, the owners forget where their bread is buttered. Your average fan like you and I are the ones that put the butter on the owners bread. Our ticket purchases, tax dollars, and television views make the NFL what it is today. Perhaps the owners of the NFL should sit back and watch the blow back effect that the clippers owner Daniel Sterlings' comments are going to have on future ticket sales of his team and maybe that will provide a stark reminder of who's really the boss. I enjoy the fact that people in London are starting to get into football and if they ever got a NFL franchise I'd fully support it. But when you force a team to play in London, your allowing a franchise to breach its lease agreement with a city and the fans and local business' in that city are the real losers as a result. In 1996, every home game the Baltimore Ravens played, the revenue for the local economy of Baltimore increased by over 15 million every game. In November 1996, the average gas price was $1.25. In 2014, the average gas price is $3.40 if that gives any indication of the inflation over the last 20 years. If Roger Goodell wanted to target new markets and increase the NFL's brand and profitability, perhaps a good start might be instead getting the Washington Redskins to consider changing their name to attract more native Americans to the game. But that will never happen because there's a far bigger market potential in England than there is with native americans. Roger knows where his bread is buttered so buckle up because in the words of the DropKick Murphys, "We're Shipping off to Boston London"

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