MLS files motion to dismiss state’s lawsuit to keep Crew SC in Columbus

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The fight to save the Columbus Crew SC continues. This time, the team’s owners Precourt Sports Ventures and Major League Soccer filed a motion to dismiss the state’s lawsuit to keep the team from leaving town.

In the 25-page court document, the owners’ attorneys claim the state lawsuit is unconstitutional and said “at its core, plaintiffs are unhappy that Columbus Crew SC, an MLS club, might relocate, and want to use the heavy hand of the state to prevent that possibility.” The documents continue, “The statue both does not apply to Defendants by its terms and is blatantly unconstitutional.”

The statue refers to the Ohio Revised Code 9.67 also known as the “Art Modell Law.” It was enacted in 1996 when the Cleveland Browns owner relocated his franchise to Baltimore. The law is designed to prevent sports teams who use tax-supported facilities from leaving unless they get permission and 6-months’ notice to the state and local governments. But court documents state the MLS, the true “owners” of the Columbus Crew never used any tax dollars so the law doesn't apply to them. Sports Attorney Kevin Braig with Shumaker Law broke it down for us.

"In summary what the defendants are arguing is that the Crew is the operator and MLS is the owner and MLS did not receive any help from the State of Ohio in terms of tax benefits and therefore the statue simply does not apply,” said Braig. "They're saying that's going too far that state government shouldn't have so much power as to be able to dictate the terms of a commercial relationship between a league and its teams."

That's why the MLS filed a motion to throw out the state's lawsuit. The Attorney General gave us this statement, “Ohio Revised Code 9.67 applies to the defendants and is constitutional. We will strongly oppose this motion to dismiss and respond further in court.”

Braig said even if a judge dismisses the state's lawsuit to keep the crew here, the team may not necessarily pack up their bags and go.

"Just because they may end up not facing this obstacle from moving, it doesn't mean there won't be other obstacles both economic and business wise and other things that would develop to keep the crew here,” said Braig.

Both parties will face a judge for a status conference hearing on May 3rd at 2pm.