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Sports teams' wanderlust irks Congress

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In recent years, major-league sports teams have been rolling cross-country like so many mobile homes. The National Football League's Raiders moved from Oakland down to Los Angeles in 1982, trailing lawsuits in their wake. Last month , the Colts skulked out of Baltimore in the dead of night, headed for Indianapolis.

This wandering has annoyed jilted fans - and some members of Congress. Legislators are now considering a bill that would make it much tougher for major-league franchises to move.

Lest New Yorkers get excited, it must be said, however, that the legislation would not force the Dodgers to return to Brooklyn.

''We're concerned that communities are being left out in the cold,'' says a congressional aide involved in the subject. ''They invest money in these teams through tax breaks, stadium construction, etc.''

Sweepingly titled the ''Professional Sports Team Community Protection Act,'' the legislation is known informally as ''the Colts bill.'' The Colts left Baltimore on March 29, the same day the bill was filed.

If passed, the bill would have a large effect on the relocation of teams in major-league baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, and the National Football League (NFL).

First, it would require owners to give advance notice of a proposed move. Prospective local buyers would get first crack at purchasing the team. A move wouldn't be allowed unless fans weren't supporting the team, or it was in financial trouble, or its stadium was in poor condition.


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