If Los Angeles Rams president John Shaw and team owner Georgia Frontiere decide they want to move the team -- a decision they'll probably make in the next two months -- they'll ask 27 other NFL owners to vote on the matter.
And if the NFL votes no, Shaw and Frontiere might move anyway.
Last week, during an NFL meet ing in Dallas, two things became clear about the Rams' search for a more profitable home:
First, many NFL owners are less than thrilled about the Rams departing the Los Angeles market and leaving its 16 million TV sets to renegade Al Davis, managing general partner of the Raiders.
Second, the owners' collective opinions might not count for anything.
"I think the Rams should be able to do whatever they want," Davis said. "I don't think there should even be a vote."
Under NFL bylaws, three-quarters of the league's owners must approve a franchise move. Because the two expansion teams in Charlotte and Jacksonville don't vote until they start league play in 1995, eight owners could block a Rams move.
Several NFL owners and executives said they don't like the idea of the Rams moving -- including representatives of the Arizona Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts, two teams that deserted their cities in the 1980s.
Colts vice president Jim Irsay said the club didn't want to move from Baltimore, but was forced to because of stadium economics.
"You hope for stability, that teams don't have to move," said Irsay, who indicated he would vote against a Rams move.
Thomas Guilfoil, an attorney for the Cardinals, said the team left St. Louis "because the situation was intolerable. I'm not sure that's the case in [Orange County]."
Others who said they would vote against a Rams move were Jeff Lurie, a movie producer who in May paid an estimated $186 million to buy the Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
"I lived in Southern California for eight years, but I understand the sense of history that the Rams have in that area," Lurie said.
Jones said: "Certainly the NFL wants, and must have, a big presence in Southern California, in both Los Angeles and Orange County. The league has too many fans out there. We've got too many Cowboys fans out there. That should be a major consideration."
Others, however, agree with Davis of the Raiders.
Dean Spanos, vice chairman of the San Diego Chargers, said he probably would vote for a Rams move "if they thought that's what's best for their team."
But those opinions might not matter.
Shaw said he planned to follow the NFL's formal procedure if the team decides to move, but would not feel bound by a vote disallowing a move. "I'm optimistic we'll get approval from a majority of the owners," Shaw said.
Would he sue the league?
"I've given a lot of thought to what our options would be."
Leigh Steinberg, a player agent who is heading a California group trying to keep the Rams in Anaheim, said he has researched legal avenues to keep the team from leaving.