3 ownership groups jockey for expansion position, too


Each fan attending tonight's preseason football game at Memorial Stadium will be given a white pompon with a handle that reads "The Glazer Family says Give Baltimore the Ball."

Prominent among the stadium ads and corporate tents in the parking lot will be Merry-Go-Round, the Joppa-based retailer owned by Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass.

And sitting in the same seats that his father, a Baltimore letter carrier, held as season tickets for years will be Tom Clancy.

It's no coincidence that Malcolm Glazer, Weinglass and Clancy are lead investors in ownership groups competing to own an expansion team if one is awarded to Baltimore.

Unique among the five finalist cities, Baltimore has three groups interested in owning a team. With the NFL scheduled to pick two cities this fall, the competition to prove community loyalty seems to be heating up.

The NFL says it is interested in strong local ties among ownership groups, and each Baltimore investor has stressed his connections.

Glazer, a Florida businessman who was born in Rochester, N.Y., moved aggressively this week to overcome complaints that he is not local enough to own a team here.

He announced Tuesday that he was buying some new instruments for the Baltimore Colt Marching Band -- an enduring symbol of the city's football fanaticism -- and handing out 60,000 pompons at the game tonight between the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints.

In interviews, he stressed that several of his sons will live in Baltimore and help run a team if he gets one. This, he said, gives his group more "live people" actually in the city than any of the other groups.

"I think people had things planned all along and want to showcase Baltimore," said Brian Glazer, one of Glazer's sons.

Added son Joel: "The fans will be the winners" of the competition among ownership groups.

Meanwhile, Weinglass, a Baltimore native who maintains a condominium here but spends most of his time in Aspen, Colo., announced the addition of Joe Washington to his group of investors. Washington, a former Colts star, would be among the first black owners of an NFL team.

Weinglass said he wanted Washington for his football connections, but acknowledged that the NFL wants to increase the role of minorities in team management.

Asked about Glazer's purchase of band instruments, Weinglass said, "It's not a bad move, but I have community support."

The Glazers, for their part, say Weinglass' Aspen mailing address shows he's not really local anymore.

The Maryland Stadium Authority has tapped each group for support in its effort to market the city. Last year, it asked for $50,000 from each to help fund its marketing program. Weinglass and Clancy, the Maryland-based author, paid immediately.

Glazer at first refused to pay the money, and even barred the authority representatives from his presentation before NFL officials in New York last year.

Glazer changed his mind this year and agreed to pay the $50,000.

The authority also asked for support for tonight's game. Merry-Go-Round is a "title sponsor" of the game, an honor the company paid "several tens of thousands of dollars" for, said Walt Gutowski, a spokesman for the authority.

The Glazers agreed to provide the pompons, Gutowski said.

Clancy, a Calvert County resident who grew up in Baltimore, has run a lower-profile effort, stressing contacts with the NFL owners. Last year he mailed an 18-pound package to the 28 NFL JTC owners containing autographed copies of all of his books and a 12-minute video that opens with Clancy in Memorial Stadium.

"Who awards the team? Twenty-eight people," Clancy said.

Meanwhile, competing cities have sought to turn Baltimore's three-way race to the city's disadvantage, claiming it is a show of disunity.

"I'm curious about your three ownership groups. I don't know if it's been a drawback, but it sounds like it's been problematic," said Allison Hawks, a spokeswoman for the St. Louis bid.

Today, NFL officials will meet with the three ownership groups to discuss financial details of their bids.

An official for the league, which will select from among the three groups if Baltimore gets a team, said the existence of three groups is not viewed as a weakness.

"You just want to have the best possible ownership group," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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