Editor’s note: Collin is Massive Report’s resident attorney writer, so he has some idea what he’s talking about when it comes to legal matters.
Eleven days after being served with Attorney General Mike DeWine’s lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment on the application of the “Art Modell” law, Ohio Revised Code Section 9.67, to Columbus Crew SC, the team, Precourt Sports Ventures, and Major League Soccer have submitted a letter of response to Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther.
The brief letter reiterates the belief of PSV and MLS that RC 9.67 does not apply in this situation. Additionally, the letter makes the claim that both the Oct. 17, 2017 announcement that PSV was seeking a move to Austin if a deal for a new stadium was not secured in Columbus and a Nov. 15, 2017 meeting with the Columbus Partnership could be construed as notice of a move setting the six-month countdown at either of those days. Six months from Oct. 17, 2017 is April 17, 2018.
In the event that the Oct. 17 announcement does not suffice as notice, PSV and MLS state that this letter itself will serve as notice that the team intends to move, setting the start of the six-month countdown for today, March 16, 2018. The letter then asks that any offers to purchase the team be directed to PSV or MLS.
AG Mike DeWine provided a brief response to this letter shortly afterward.
In his response, DeWine acknowledges that, despite their objections, PSV and MLS have begun to comply with RC 9.67, and will now field offers for the purchase of the team as laid out in the law. However, in the face of PSV and MLS’s compliance with Ohio law, DeWine has reiterated his commitment to continue the lawsuit.
What does this mean for Crew SC fans and the Save The Crew movement? Sadly, it doesn’t look good.
Despite reiterating their belief that the law does not apply to their situation, PSV and MLS have now, at the latest, begun to officially comply with the law. While other sports owners in Ohio may want to see the enforceability of this law litigated, it was never in the best interest of PSV or MLS to be involved in a lawsuit over a law that is incredibly easy for them to comply with. Discovery in a lawsuit may potentially have required PSV or MLS to provide financial documentation, which now will almost certainly not happen.
Even though DeWine has committed to continuing this lawsuit, the declaratory judgment that RC 9.67 applies now serves little purpose. Even more irrelevant is the preliminary injunction sought to prevent the team from moving if they don’t comply with RC 9.67, which they expressly have with this letter.
The last remaining question is whether any oversight by an Ohio court is necessary to ensure that the process of fielding offers for the team is done in good faith by PSV and MLS.
RC 9.67 is silent on what the process for fielding offers should be. Despite comments to the contrary, there is no clause in this specific law that requires these offers to be considered in “good faith” by PSV or MLS.
Compliance with this relatively toothless law was always the easiest option for PSV and MLS. Unless DeWine is able to speed up this process, it’s unlikely that this case will ever reach a decision, and even if it should, that decision will do nothing more than acknowledge that PSV and MLS have fully complied with RC 9.67.