Malcolm Glazer, the Florida businessman who refused a request from the Maryland Stadium Authority last year for $50,000 to help fund the city's lobbying effort to get an NFL expansion team, has changed his mind.
Herbert J. Belgrad, the chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said yesterday that Glazer pledged to make the contribution at a meeting on Monday.
Joel Glazer, one of Malcolm's sons, said the move was a vote of confidence in the work of Belgrad and the Maryland Stadium Authority.
"We planned on doing some things ourselves, but we felt it would be better if the city had the money to do what is best for the Baltimore effort. Everything that Herb Belgrad and the stadium authority has done has been first-class," he said.
Belgrad said that Glazer's contribution showed he was committed to Baltimore even though he looked into the possibility of buying the New England Patriots earlier this year. Glazer backed off because of the team's poor financial condition and the NFL's refusal to allow the team to be moved.
"This is the clearest indication that they're in it for Baltimore and Baltimore alone," Belgrad said. "They're not just looking for a team.
"I'm very appreciative that there is a team effort [among the three groups seeking ownership]. Any misunderstanding that might have been occasioned by the fact the check wasn't forthcoming initially has been removed."
The heads of the two other groups attempting to gain an NFL franchise for Baltimore -- Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, chairman of Merry-Go-Round, a nationwide chain of clothing stores; and author Tom Clancy -- wrote the $50,000 checks last year when Belgrad first asked.
Belgrad had asked for the money because the authority is not using public funds in the lobbying effort.
Although the Glazers had said they were willing to spend the money to put a winning team on the field, the failure to contribute the $50,000 raised the specter that they might run the type of bottom-line operation that was Robert Irsay's trademark as the Colts' owner before he moved to Indianapolis in 1984.
Weinglass' Merry-Go-Round stores are one of the three presenting sponsors along with Toyota and Leaf, Inc., a candy bar company.
The stadium authority hasn't yet contacted Clancy to find out if he wants to get involved.
Belgrad said the Glazer contribution was well-timed, because the city might have to fund a campaign to sell luxury boxes at the proposed new football stadium soon.
The league has indicated it might call on the five finalists in the expansion race to display corporate support by selling luxury boxes.
The other four cities in the race are St. Louis, Charlotte, N.C., Memphis, Tenn., and Jacksonville, Fla.
The NFL's timetable is to expand by two teams this fall to play in the 1994 season, but it could be delayed by labor problems.
The NFL will likely delay expansion unless it wins the antitrust trial in Minneapolis or gets a settlement. This week, the NFL authorized commissioner Paul Tagliabue to negotiate a settlement that would need approval of only four of the seven owners on the Management Council.
Tagliabue also put Al Davis, the managing general partner of the Los Angeles Raiders, on the management council in the hopes that he can use his influence with Gene Upshaw, the head of the NFL Players Association, to get a settlement. Upshaw is an ex-Raider.