This post was inspired by a few comments that TheMomGene wrote in the "Fan reaction to Luck's retirement" thread, in regards to the Indianapolis Colts move from Baltimore in 1984.
As many of you may recall, when the Colts relocated from Baltimore, they just kinda did it in the middle of the night. One day they were the Baltimore Colts, and then the next day, the moving trucks were unloading all of the Colts property in Indianapolis...
Now, there was a stadium dispute that led to this move. Both the Colts and the Orioles had been complaining about how old Memorial Stadium was back in the early 1970s already. Long story short, by the time we get to January of 1984, the Colts were informed by then-mayor Schaefer, that there would be no new stadium.
In March of 1984, the NFL gave owner Robert Irsay permission to move the Colts to any city he wanted. He negotiated with both Phoenix (the Cardinals were still in St. Louis in 1984, they wouldn't relocate to Phoenix until 1988) and Indianapolis. The city of Indianapolis was in the middle of constructing the Hoosier Dome at the time, and Irsay fell in love it, basically guaranteeing that if the Colts moved, it would be to Indianapolis.
Then, the Maryland Legislature did something incredibly stupid. On March 27, 1984, they passed a bill that granted the city of Baltimore the right to flat out seize the Colts, and all of it's assets via Eminent Domain. That move was all Irsay needed to finalize his deal with Indianapolis and leave Baltimore. However, the Governor of Maryland had yet to sign that bill into law...something he was scheduled to do in the morning on March 30. If the Colts were still in Maryland when he signs that bill, the Colts legally belong to the city of Baltimore. So Irsay acted. He got the Mayflower trucks, and between 10pm and the next morning, the Baltimore Colts ceased to exist, and the Indianapolis Colts were born.
But...that only explains how the Colts got to Indianapolis. What would happen to their history, as the Baltimore Colts? Simply put, it went with the Colts to Indianapolis. Baltimore had not only lost their team, they had lost their entire claim to the team's history. Johnny Unitas refused to have anything to do with the Indianapolis Colts...but legally, and according to the NFL, the Colts were still the team he used to play for. It was the Indianapolis Colts displaying the NFL Championship trophies, it was the Indianapolis Colts with the murals of the Hall of Famers...
Now, this makes total sense. When an NFL team relocates, of course their history goes with them. The Rams didn't give up their Super Bowl Trophy when they moved from St. Louis back to Los Angeles, the Raiders are still 3x Super Bowl champs, whether they call Oakland, Los Angeles or Las Vegas their home...I mean, why wouldn't they keep that?
Well, Baltimore kind of got screwed twice by the relocation process...you see, while MOST team relocations simply take the history with them, when Art Modell wanted to relocate the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, the city of Cleveland sued, and they had to come to an arrangement: The Browns could move, and the player contracts would move with them to Baltimore...however, the Cleveland Browns name, the uniforms, the colors, the history, the championships, etc were to remain in Cleveland. Art Modell could relocate the team itself, but he couldn't call the team the Browns, or claim any of their history.
So, when the Baltimore Ravens came into existence, while they had the Cleveland Browns roster from the previous year, their history was a total blank slate. The fans in Baltimore lost the Colts, and in return, 14 years later, basically got an expansion team in all but the roster. Hardly an equitable trade.
And therein lies the heart of this post. Is it right that the Tennessee Titans claim the history of the Houston Oilers, or should that history have stayed with the city of Houston, to be passed along to the then-expansion Houston Texans? When the Raiders move to Las Vegas next year, should they have to start from scratch?
What should the NFL do with the histories of relocated teams?