“It is not every day in the sports law world that we have an issue with the constitutionality of a law,” Goldberg Segalla’s Joseph M. Hanna told Law360. But the constitutionality of a law — specifically, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 9.67, or the Art Modell Law — is the issue at the heart of a dispute between the state of Ohio and city of Columbus and the Columbus Crew Major League Soccer team.
The city and state brought suit against the MLS team to block plans to move it to Austin, Texas. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has invoked the Art Modell Law, passed after Cleveland lost its NFL team to Baltimore in 1996, which obligates the owners of Ohio-based professional sports teams that have received public benefits, investments, or tax breaks to provide the municipality in which it plays at least six months’ notice of an intent to move and to provide local investors an opportunity to purchase the team. However, the suit will test the constitutionality of Ohio’s Art Modell Law, which may be at odds with the Dorman Commerce Clause, a legal doctrine inferred from the Commerce Clause in Article I of the Constitution, which grants solely to Congress the authority to regulate interstate trade.
“The law was enacted to prevent these owners from getting the financial benefit from the city they are in, and then essentially shopping the team around to other cities. That seems to be exactly what Columbus did.” Joe, chair of the firm’s Sports and Entertainment practice, told Law360. “This is as interesting as it gets.”