After the NFL owners unanimously approved the sale of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Glazer family yesterday, they started to debate the thorny issue of the Los Angeles Rams' proposed move to St. Louis.
Hanging over the discussions was a declaration from the attorney general of Missouri, Jay Nixon, that the state will file an antitrust suit against the league if the move is turned down.
Nixon sent a letter to commissioner Paul Tagliabue that said he was prepared "to stop any unlawful restraint of trade."
It was a foregone conclusion that the Rams and St. Louis would go to court if the move was rejected by the owners, but the Rams never formally had threatened to sue.
Rams president John Shaw and commissioner Paul Tagliabue have an agreement that if the owners don't vote on the issue at this meeting, it will be considered a no vote and the Rams will be free to sue.
Tagliabue said the owners are so divided on the issue that there might not be a vote at this meeting.
"We're trying to get a consensus," he said. "If we don't have a consensus, we won't have a vote."
The owners didn't seem pleased about the threat of a lawsuit.
Carmen Policy, president of the San Francisco 49ers, said, "It might influence people to vote against the move. . . . I don't think that's the way to create goodwill."
There has been some speculation that Rams owner Georgia Frontiere might not want to fight the league. However, the native of St. Louis said yesterday, "I'm from Missouri; I'm stubborn as a mule. I'll see this through to the end."
A hang-up is the owners' bid to get some of the $70 million in premium-seat license money from St. Louis.
Shaw argued that it's St. Louis' money because the city -- not the team -- sold the licenses, although the Rams are due to get much of the money.
He also disputed the league's argument that the team was mismanaged in Los Angeles by the Rams.
"The term mismanagement is so absurd and insulting to this organization that I really don't believe I have any other comment. If that's the case, every team in this league has been mismanaged at some time or another," Shaw said.
While the Rams are involved in bitter debate, things were all smiles for the Glazer family as its purchase of the Bucs for $192 million was approved without objection.
It was a long road for Malcolm Glazer, who tried to get an expansion team for Baltimore when the league added two teams in 1993.
The league had sent signals that the Glazers were part of Baltimore's problem.
Malcolm's son, Joel Glazer, said yesterday's action proved they weren't Baltimore's problem.
"I think everyone gets their answer today," he said.
When the sale was announced in January, Malcolm Glazer said he was happy he didn't get an expansion team in Baltimore.
Glazer retracted that statement yesterday, and his son Bryan said, "He didn't mean it the way it came out."
The Glazers have promised to keep the team in Tampa for at least two years, but have indicated they need a new stadium.
A task force has been formed that is supposed to present a stadium-funding plan to the city of Tampa in late summer.
NOTE: The owners are ready to adopt a clarification of the rules that would ban hits by the hairline of the helmet or the face mask. It would ban the type of hit by Wilber Marshall on Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman that gave Aikman a concussion last season.