Gov. William Donald Schaefer has agreed to meet with Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke -- but only if Mr. Cooke agrees in advance to consider moving the Redskins to Baltimore or, as an alternative, pledges he will not block Baltimore's continuing attempts to get its own team.
In a bluntly worded, two-page letter hand carried to Mr. Cooke Wednesday, the governor stubbornly refused to budge from his goal of getting a team for Baltimore despite Mr. Cooke's plans to move the Redskins to Laurel.
Mr. Schaefer also said he would agree to meet with Mr. Cooke only "if all efforts to locate [the Redskins] in Washington, D.C. have been terminated." The letter was made public yesterday.
"It's very simple," Mr. Schaefer told reporters at an afternoon news conference. "Say, 'I'll locate in Baltimore,' or, as the other alternative -- and one he has said before -- say he won't oppose our efforts to get a franchise."
Mr. Cooke, who last week called the governor's office to request a meeting, could not be reached for comment.
A Redskins official, however, said the organization was not surprised by the tough tone of Mr. Schaefer's letter, calling it predictable posturing by an angry governor. The official expected Mr. Cooke to ignore the letter's sometimes harsh language and prepare to sit down for discussions with Mr. Schaefer.
Mr. Cooke has proposed spending $160 million of his own money to construct a 78,600-seat stadium for the Redskins adjacent to Laurel Race Course in Anne Arundel County.
Aides to the governor said he is expected to call Washington Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly today to set up a meeting for next week to find out personally the status of Mr. Cooke's broken-off negotiations with the District of Columbia.
Mr. Schaefer, asked specifically if he would support a Redskins move to Laurel if Mr. Cooke agreed not to block a Baltimore team, replied, "You're asking, 'If, if, if, if, if,'" but then added, "I think we would look very favorably on his magnanimous gesture if he would do it."
Room for two teams
Mr. Schaefer insisted there was sufficient fan interest in the Washington and Baltimore areas to support two teams in such close proximity, and said the NFL should not object, noting that the league has now awarded three franchises in Florida and that two teams share the same field in New York.
"Incidentally, we were doing all right," said Mr. Schaefer of
Baltimore's effort to get a team until Mr. Cooke's gaze suddenly turned to Maryland. "There was no assurance. But there are a couple teams that are going to move. They're going to move! Everybody knows they are going to move. We had a chance -- a chance -- of getting one. He's able to stop that."
The governor hinted that in addition to a football stadium, he is giving "very important consideration" to the possibility of building a sports arena as part of the Camden Yards sports complex, but refused to elaborate.
A shot at Tagliabue
In his letter to Mr. Cooke, the governor also took a shot at NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, blaming him for killing Baltimore's chances to win one of two NFL expansion franchises by telling owners before the vote of Mr. Cooke's interest in moving into Maryland.
"I cannot tell you of my disgust for the commissioner for withholding this information from us and using it in the private owners meetings to thwart our efforts," the governor said. "He has lost our respect."
Mr. Schaefer said he is so distrustful of Mr. Tagliabue that if Mr. Cooke were to write the commissioner saying he did not object to a Baltimore team, he would have his own staff call NFL owners to make sure the information was forwarded.
NFL officials declined to comment on Mr. Schaefer's letter. Last week in a conference call with reporters, Mr. Tagliabue denied that either geography or a possible Redskins move to Maryland played a major role in the decision to award expansion teams to Charlotte, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla.
Behind the scenes yesterday, Schaefer administration officials,
legislators, Anne Arundel County officials and representatives of the Redskins discussed how to proceed with a study of road and other infrastructure improvements associated with a Laurel stadium.
Mr. Cooke has said he thinks those costs will be no more than $36 million, but Mr. Schaefer yesterday said it could be as high as $100 million. Maryland Stadium Authority Chairman Herbert J. Belgrad has used even higher estimates.
Although decisions are not final, it appeared the various parties were moving toward an agreement to let Anne Arundel County oversee the study, with technical assistance from the state and perhaps from the Redskins.
Hiring a consultant
Some of the discussion also apparently revolved around the possible hiring of the Baltimore engineering consulting firm of tTC Rummel Klepper and Kahl to assist in the study. The firm has conducted similar studies in the past.
But, sources said, Redskins representatives were ready to object to the firm, partly because a principal is William K. Hellmann, a former Maryland transportation secretary and stadium authority member with close ties to Mr. Schaefer. The objections were not to Mr. Hellmann's qualifications, or the firm's, but rather to the appearance that the firm might be sympathetic to Mr. Schaefer's position, sources said.
Mr. Schaefer said he had heard Mr. Cooke "has some concern whether we have picked a consultant," but said, "We haven't picked anybody or any consultant to do anything."
As the governor and Mr. Cooke were moving closer to talks, the leader of Baltimore's state Senate delegation was warning that the Redskins should not expect to move to Laurel without making some concessions to the former home of the Colts.
"Mr. Cooke can't bully this through," said Sen. John A. Pica, a Democrat. "He's got to get the approval of the people he's dealing with."
Mr. Pica said he'd rather the team be moved to Camden Yards. But "if we reach a point where Mr. Cooke is moving his team to Laurel, we will only support it under certain conditions. We want half the seats. We want the name changed. The Baltimore Senators sounds good. And they've got to change the tune.
"Any true Baltimore fan is not going to root for the Redskins," Mr. Pica said. "Never. We don't like the team. We hate the song."
SCHAEFER'S LETTER TO JACK KENT COOKE
Dear Mr. Cooke:
I have watched and read with interest your efforts to build a stadium in Washington, D.C. and in the suburbs of Virginia. You are to be commended for your efforts even though you have not been able to reach a successful conclusion.
When the Colts left Baltimore under cover of darkness, I began my efforts to locate a new NFL franchise in a city that would benefit economically from such a team. During the entire time of nine years, you never expressed an interest in relocating the Redskins in Maryland. Mayor Kelly has advised me she is still negotiating with, and hopeful that, a satisfactory conclusion can be reached to build a new stadium in Washington, D.C. The fans of the Washington metro area have been loyal to the Redskins as evidenced by the "sell outs" at each game. These loyal fans should be recognized and efforts should be made to locate the team in Washington, D.C. where they were successful. You have called and suggested we meet. I have not responded pending a legislative initiative that has now been completed.
If I might digress for a moment, Commissioner Tagliabue knew of your interest to move to Maryland. Our expansion team was not informed of this fact by the Commissioner at any time during the two meetings in Chicago. I cannot tell you of my disgust for the commissioner for withholding this information from us and using it in the private owners meetings to thwart our efforts. He has lost our respect.
Now as to a meeting, I will be more than glad to meet with you under the following circumstances if all efforts to locate in Washington, D.C. have been terminated.
The conditions are:
1. The possibility of a team locating in Baltimore just about 15 miles from the site you have under consideration. The area has been prepared for a new stadium. The facility, roads, and rail are already in place. This would save the taxpayers of Maryland approximately $75 to $100 million dollars in new facilities, road, etc. This is an ideal, "ready to go" site and would be placed in an area where such an addition is needed. The fans in Baltimore are as loyal as the fans are in Washington, D.C. and I know the support for the team will be there.
2. If you rule out Baltimore as a site for the Redskins, then and in that event you agree to withdraw any and all opposition to Baltimore's efforts to acquire a team for the "ready" site. All you would have to do is inform the Commissioner and the other owners of your position not to oppose a franchise for Baltimore as you have in the past. There is precedence for having two teams in one state. I call your attention to the decision of Mr. Tagliabue to locate three teams in Florida. There is also the fact that two teams play on the same field in New York. While Maryland is neither Florida nor New York, ticket sales for the Washington Redskins and the support we found in the Baltimore region for a team prove this area would support two NFL franchises. There are, in reality, two separate and distinct sports areas.
3. Such other matters as may be appropriate.
Under these circumstances, an early meeting and resolution of the problem can be made.
I await an early reply.