The section of the Ohio Revised Code dealing with franchise
moves by Ohio sports teams who play in taxpayer-supported facilities was passed after the NFL Cleveland Browns left for Baltimore.
"No owner of a professional sports team that uses a tax-supported facility for most of its home games and receives financial assistance from the state or a political subdivision thereof shall cease playing most of its home games at the facility and begin playing most of its home games elsewhere unless the owner either:
"(A) Enters into an agreement with the political subdivision permitting the team to play most of its home games elsewhere;
"(B) Gives the political subdivision in which the facility is located not less than six months’ advance notice of the owner’s intention to cease playing most of its home games at the facility and, during the six months after such notice, gives the political subdivision or any individual or group of individuals who reside in the area the opportunity to purchase the team."
The law is untested -- no court has had to interpret the statute -- so it is not clear whether the Crew would be covered under the law and what is meant by giving a local investor "opportunity to purchase the team," i.e. what would the minimum terms of that purchase offer have to be,
The argument is that the Crew's use of Mapfre Stadium is covered because of state contributions to parking upgrades and the discounted lease rate the Crew receives from the Ohio Expositions Commission, which owns the site of the stadium and its parking lots.
“Ohioans are very loyal fans who passionately support our teams and take great civic pride in their accomplishments. Our teams are a part of our communities. That is why when ownership moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in 1995, the Ohio General Assembly took action and passed a law to protect Ohio and its communities when they provide tax-funded support for professional teams’ stadiums. As a United States Senator, I, along with Senator John Glenn and Congressman Louis Stokes, introduced similar legislation in Congress.
“The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has reviewed the law passed after the Browns’ move. We believe the evidence will show that this law would apply to the Columbus Crew and Mapfre Stadium. As Attorney General, should ownership of the Columbus Crew initiate a move of the team without complying with Ohio law, I am prepared to take the necessary legal action under this law to protect the interests of the State of Ohio and the central Ohio communities which have all invested to make the Columbus Crew a proud part of our Ohio sports tradition and help Mapfre Stadium earn its reputation as ‘Fortress Columbus.’”
Since Precourt Sports Ventures has not decided whether it wants to stay or move, it says there's nothing to address in regard to DeWine's statement.