Ohio AG Explores Lawsuit to Keep Crew in Columbus

Columbus Crew badgeOhio Attorney General Mike DeWine may invoke a Art Modell-inspired law to prevent the move of the Columbus Crew (MLS) to Austin unless certain conditions are met.

The law, created after Modell moved the original Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, prevents the move of a professional sports franchise that has accepted public funding for sports facilities. In the case of MAPFRE Stadium, the facility itself was privately financed, but the team has accepted free land, below-market leases and parking improvements, thus qualifying to be covered under the law. Under that theory, we could see a Columbus Crew lawsuit to keep the team in town. From the Columbus Dispatch:

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is prepared to take “necessary legal action” to keep Columbus Crew SC from leaving town.

He agrees that a 1996 state law passed in response to Art Modell’s decision to move the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore could be used to keep the Crew in Columbus.

“The Ohio attorney general’s office has reviewed the law passed after the Browns’ move. We believe the evidence will show that this law would apply to the Columbus Crew and Mapfre Stadium,” DeWine said in a statement.

The basis for the law says no owner of a professional sports team in Ohio that uses tax-supported facilities or gets public financial assistance can move out of town unless the owner gives six months advance notice and gives the city or local individuals who live in the area the opportunity to purchase the team.

Of course, there are a few holes in this legal theory. First, the team has not formally moved; exploring a move is different than actually moving. Second, Crew owner Anthony Precourt can argue he’s already discussed a sale of the team — or at lease the inclusion of local investors — without receiving any solid offers. And third, this is a law that’s not been tested in court. This is uncharted territory, to be sure.

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