If Peter Angelos is successful in his bid to buy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will the National Football League approve the sale?
NFL rules, which have not been tested for legality in court, require approval of three-fourths of the other owners before a franchise can relocate, and an informal poll of team officials yesterday revealed divided opinion about the Baltimore Buccaneers.
Carmen Policy, the president of the San Francisco 49ers, says one team is enough for the Baltimore-Washington area. But he was taken aback yesterday when told that Mr. Angelos, majority owner of the Orioles, was willing to bid $200 million for the Bucs.
Mr. Policy paused and then said, "I have no comment."
Told he sounded surprised by the figure, he paused again and said: "I was a little, but I have no comment."
Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, who wants to move his team to Laurel, has argued that the Baltimore-Washington area doesn't need another team. Mr. Policy agreed.
"I don't believe it's in the best interests of the NFL to have a team in Baltimore," Mr. Policy said. "I think the concentration of teams is too dense in that general area.
"Why doesn't Baltimore go and get the Redskins?" Mr. Policy said. "Wouldn't that answer the whole problem? If Cooke wants to move to Baltimore, we'd have no objection."
There are owners, though, who disagree with Mr. Policy.
The Cincinnati Bengals' Mike Brown, who was the only owner who voted against the Redskins' proposed move to Laurel, said he told the owners: "If the Redskins want Washington, that's fine. If they want Baltimore, that's fine. Personally, I'm on record as having said they ought to choose. They ought not be entitled to both."
One owner who didn't want to be identified said he thought Mr. Brown's view was in the majority among the owners.
Mr. Brown also questioned whether the owners could stop a move to Baltimore.
"We would not vote against it [a team in Baltimore]. If the league voted against it, I'm not sure it matters," Mr. Brown said.
Although the league put in place guidelines governing team moves after Al Davis, owner of the Raiders, won a court fight to move from Oakland, Calif., to Los Angeles, they never have been tested in court. Mr. Davis still takes the position that an owner doesn't need league approval to move.
Rankin Smith, the owner of the Atlanta Falcons, conceded that the Bucs may move.
"You know I'm a big Southeast guy, but it could be tough to keep them there," Mr. Smith said. "I think the support down there could be thin. Given how I feel about this part of the country, I wouldn't be happy about it [the Bucs leaving], but I also can see how it might be necessary."
When he was asked about Baltimore, Mr. Smith said, "From everything I hear, it's a fantastic deal there."
There were other owners who sounded sympathetic to Baltimore, but didn't commit to voting for the Bucs to leave Tampa.
Pat Bowlen, owner of the Denver Broncos, said: "I've never been one of those who held the Redskins had any franchise on Baltimore territory. Come on, the Baltimore Colts were there in Baltimore and the Redskins were in Washington [from 1953 to 1984]."
Bob Harlan, president of the Green Bay Packers, said: "We've always had good feelings for the city of Baltimore. I don't have any problems with Baltimore."
Wellington Mara, co-owner of the New York Giants, said: "We had a team there before, and it worked well."
Jim Miller, executive vice president of the New Orleans Saints, said: "We would prefer to see any team that's currently in a league city stay in that city unless there were obvious problems in that city."