The Grateful Dead were noted in their live performances for, among other things, beginning a song and then segueing to one or more other songs before concluding the first song in the thread. Sometimes, the Dead would wait several concerts to complete the original song. Today we emulate the Grateful Dead by completing a string of posts that began in May about the potential relocation of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew to Austin, Texas. In our first post, we described the lawsuit brought by then-Ohio Attorney General, and now Governor-Elect, Mike Dewine to apply Ohio’s “Art Modell Law” to halt the Crew’s departure. We observed in this post that if successful, Ohio’s Art Modell Law could serve as a model to other states to prevent the relocation of professional sports franchises that have benefited from publicly financed arenas, stadiums, and other facilities. Our second post reported Major League Soccer’s award of an expansion franchise to Cincinnati, which demonstrates that a state’s enactment of an Art Modell Law evidently will not dissuade a professional sports league from expanding to that state.
We can now conclude the trilogy and report that the lawsuit brought by Mr. Dewine has had the desired effect. After the motion to dismiss the lawsuit was rejected, Major League Soccer negotiated the sale of the Columbus Crew franchise to a new ownership group that includes Dee and Jimmy Haslam, who also own the Cleveland Browns. (The Browns can partially blame their early season kicking woes if their slim playoff chances are dashed, but purchasing a soccer team to groom and procure kicking talent seems like an unconventional, and expensive, reaction). The new ownership group has until December 31, 2018 to obtain a location and plan for a new stadium; incentive packages passed by the State of Ohio and the City of Columbus have gone a long way toward meeting this requirement (and will also subject the new ownership group to the Art Modell Law). Although a court did not decide the merits of the Art Modell Law, the invocation of that law succeeded to compel Major League Soccer to negotiate Columbus’ retention of the Crew franchise, and at the same time it did not thwart the expansion of Major League Soccer in Ohio. Perhaps these events will spur other states to adopt their own versions of the Art Modell Law.