Monday’s press conference introducing G.M. Jon Robinson and non-interim coach Mike Mularkey included an inevitable discussion of the team’s current ownership situation.
As always, the discussion began with a strong, clear denial that the team is for sale. But it was followed by enough comments to make clear the possibility that the Titans eventually may be for sale not because the owners want to sell, but because they have to.
“There’s no question about a potential sale of this team in the future,” team president Steve Underwood said. “The team is not for sale. It has never been for sale.”
Asked whether the league is trying to identify buyers (PFT has reported that up to six potential buyers have been identified), Underwood held firm: “You know, it’s really hard to do that when it’s not for sale. You know, you can have all of the buyers in the world, but if there is not a seller, you can’t sell anything. The team is not for sale. It’s never been for sale. When you find a source listed about whether or not the team is for sale, then feel free to ask those questions about that person. I know all of the sources. They’re the people that own the team. I don’t know how many times we have to deny that it’s for sale. The team is not for sale.”
Right, but the team could be for sale if the Titans fail to persuade the NFL that the current ownership structure complies with league rules — and if ownership chooses not to sue.
“The Commissioner has mentioned that there are issues with the ownership structure, and we address it with the league on a weekly basis,” Underwood said, adding that the problem has been “ongoing since Mr. [Bud] Adams’ death,” in 2013.
Although details regarding the NFL’s concerns remain scant, Underwood said that the league is “concerned with the ownership structure, not with the individual owners.”
That concern, which has lingered now for more than two years, isn’t going away any time soon. Appearing on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville on Tuesday, Underwood said that he sent a letter to the league this week regarding the situation, and that the team and league are in “regular, high-level communication.”
At some point, the communication will end, and an ultimatum will be issued (unless the NFL changes its mind about the structure). The Titans then will have to choose whether to comply, to sell, or to sue.
A year and a day after #DeflateGate, it’s hard to tell whether the Titans are the latest franchise to be railroaded by the NFL, without knowing the ownership structure, the NFL’s concerns with it, and whether other teams are (as the Titans contend) further out of compliance with the relevant rules than the Titans. For now, neither the Titans nor the NFL are providing details about the dispute, which makes it impossible to know his this one will play out.
Thus, it’s impossible to rule out a forced sale of the team, regardless of whether a voluntary sale would never happen.