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Meet the man who inadvertently saved the Columbus Crew

Man Who Saved Crew - Ben (6).jpg
A state employee inadvertently played a critical role in keeping the team in Columbus when he stumbled across the Art Model law (WSYX/WTTE)

The Franklin County Commission voted Tuesday to approve roughly $50 million for infrastructure improvements around the new Crew stadium near the Arena District. That vote likely wouldn't have happened if not for a state employee who inadvertently played a critical role in keeping the team in Columbus.

People who were part of the negotiations to save the team have said it wouldn't have happened had it not been for the Save the Crew fan movement and the lawsuit to prevent the team from moving. The City of Columbus and State of Ohio sued but that lawsuit almost didn't happen.

A lawyer at the Ohio Department of Agriculture stumbled upon an obscure part of Ohio law while searching for something unrelated.

"It's a random code section about a professional sports team that wants to move and thought, 'this sounds awfully like the Crew'," said David Miran, the interim chief legal counsel for the Department of Agriculture.

Miran is referring to what is often called the "Art Modell Law", named after the former Cleveland Browns owner who moved the team to Baltimore in the 1990's. State legislators passed a law shortly after he moved the team requiring any professional sports team which receives taxpayer support to stay or sell the team to someone who will not move it.

Miran forwarded it to a friend who was part of the Save the Crew movement. Unbeknownst to Miran, his friend also had an uncle in the Ohio House of Representatives. That representative, Rep. Mike Duffey (R - Columbus), thought there was enough merit to forward it to the Ohio Attorney General.

"It's been pretty wild and it's been pretty fun to tell friends and family that like, 'oh hey I was the one who found that Art Modell Law'," he said.

Attorney General Mike DeWine has said the lawsuit helped buy city officials time to negotiate for someone else to buy the team.

“It’s never been tested in court before but we decided to go ahead and do it," DeWine said earlier this month as team officials unveiled plans for a new stadium. “The lawsuit, without getting into the legal technicalities, was sort of what we hoped was a wake-up call and we hoped to get some people’s attention.”

Miran said he's a casual fan of the Crew SC, having gone to a handful of games during the decade he's lived in Columbus.

"Some of my friends have joked, 'are you going to get a statue' or something of that nature," Miran said. "It's been pretty awesome. It's been a long process and there's still a long way to go but it's a small part of history."

He said he's not looking for adoration from Crew fans but he might become a bigger supporter after playing a part in saving the team.

"I think I have a duty to do so, so maybe season tickets are in the mix," he said.

A judge earlier this month refused to dismiss the lawsuit against MLS and Precourt Sports Ventures, the organization set up by Crew owner Anthony Precourt. State and city officials have said they will drop the lawsuit once a deal for current Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Columbus doctor Pete Edwards to buy the team is official.

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