Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White said last night that a meeting with NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue heartened officials in his administration and renewed their hopes of keeping the Browns from moving to Baltimore.
Arriving at Baltimore-Washington International Airport after a meeting with the commissioner in New York, an upbeat Mr. White told reporters: "The future is more in our hands than anyone else's hands. Our community is prepared to fight so we don't lose our team in the middle of the night like Baltimore."
Mr. Tagliabue assured a Cleveland contingent that today's expected announcement of a planned move by Browns owner Art Modell "is not the end of the game, that [today's] announcement may be just the beginning," Mr. White said.
Specifically, Mr. White said, the commissioner promised that no decision would be made for at least 60 days, after the NFL reviews Mr. Modell's written reasons for wanting to move the Browns and a written statement from the city.
"It is not a fait accompli that a move will take place," Mr. White said. "Ultimately, there will be 32 people [NFL team owners] who decide, not just one person."
Mr. White said he does not plan to attend Mr. Modell's expected announcement or speak with the Browns owner. But Mr. White said he does hope to meet privately with Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, a longtime friend.
The Cleveland mayor also hinted that the city is prepared to pursue legal means to stop the move, and hopes to fine-tune its strategy within the next 10 days.
He said it would be premature to count Cleveland out.
Mr. White said he did not go to New York to see Mr. Tagliabue and come to Baltimore because of any "slam-dunk strategy that will ultimately make us successful."
"But you have to understand our city," he said. "We're people who came back from real long odds. We're not even supposed to be alive today. And here we are standing as one of the great cities today."
He said he sympathized with Baltimore's loss of the Colts, saying the city "got a raw deal."
Mr. White recalled a recent conversation with Mr. Schmoke and quoted him as saying: "Ever since that team [the Colts] left, this town has been in a funk."
"We're not here in any shape or form to hurt Baltimore," Mr. White said. "We're here to keep our team."