Legislation aimed specifically at nullifying a court decision clearing the way for the Oakland Raiders to move to the Los Angeles Coliseum was introduced in Congress yesterday by Rep. Fortney H. (Pete) Stark (D-Calif.), who represents Oakland.
The measure, cosponsored by Rep. Don Edwards (D-Calif.), whose district includes neighboring Alameda County, and Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), specifically declares that it is not a violation of federal antitrust laws for professional sports leagues to require members' approval before a team relocates.
It contains a clause under which, upon enactment, the bill would apply retroactively to the Oakland case. A federal court jury in Los Angeles found on May 8 that a National Football League rule requiring approval by three-quarters of the NFL team owners for a team to relocate was a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
That case was brought against the NFL by the Raiders and the Los Angeles Coliseum, who argued the NFL acted illegally to discourage competition when the owners refused to approve the Raiders' move to the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Stark's bill also would permit teams in a professional sports league to divide club revenues "to promote comparable economic opportunities for the member clubs" without being liable to antitrust. Currently, teams in the NFL share equally in all television, playoff game and Super Bowl revenues.
"Beyond these two specific provisions, the act has no effect on any sports antitrust subject," Stark said. "The current legislation is not in any way antiplayer, anti-players' union or antilabor."
Predictably, the proposed legislation--which is not the broad antitrust exemption the NFL has been seeking--drew an endorsement from the league but opposition from the Raiders and the Coliseum.
NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle said yesterday, "We did not ask for sweeping antitrust exemptions, but we feel a case has been made for a broader bill. But we are going to support the Oakland bill."
The league is expected to continue its efforts in Congress for an antitrust exemption. Repeatedly, the NFL has argued before Congress that it is, in effect, a partnership of 28 teams and that for antitrust purposes it should be treated as a single company.
Former San Francisco mayor Joseph Alioto, the lawyer for the Raiders, said, "If this bill is meant to legalize existing rules (for team relocation), then we're opposed to it. It's not going anywhere. It's a dead duck."
Mike Frankovich, the president of the Los Angeles Coliseum Board of Commissioners, said the board will fight the bill. "This thing is a dirty way to operate. They are doing everything they can to win this case one way or another," he said.
In his floor statement, Stark said he is convinced that "clear legal standards have not been established for determining the responsibilities of sports franchises to their host communities and the prerogatives of sports leagues in honoring their obligations to communities in which league teams have successfully operated."
He said citizens of Oakland were "shocked and outraged" by the Raiders' efforts to "misuse the antitrust laws to relocate the NFL's Oakland franchise in Los Angeles, despite the unprecedented and continued financial and moral support the Raiders had received in the Oakland area and despite the unanimous opposition of the NFL's other member clubs to this unwarranted abandonment of Oakland."
Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFL Players Association, had no immediate comment on the bill, but he observed that amidst the press of other legislation it could be low on the congressional priority list.