Angels Lose Round on Name
After the Angels had taken another public beating over their name change, with state legislators about to vote on a bill that could embarrass the team every time it sells a ticket, the presiding official asked whether anyone wished to speak in opposition to the bill.
No one did.
“Mr. Moreno is not out there, I take it,” said Assemblyman Ed Chavez (D-La Puente).
No, he wasn’t, and so Angel owner Arte Moreno and his team were shut out on Tuesday. By a 9-0 vote, the Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media approved a bill that would force the Angels to include a disclaimer on tickets and advertisements indicating the team plays in Anaheim, not Los Angeles.
Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Garden Grove), whose district includes Angel Stadium, said the Angels are fraudulently marketing themselves as a Los Angeles team.
In January, the team changed its name to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The city of Anaheim has sued the team, charging the name violates the stadium lease.
Umberg justified legislative intervention by drawing a parallel to warning labels required on orange juice that contains no juice.
“This product contains no Los Angeles,” Umberg said, drawing chuckles in the hearing room.
In a news release announcing the name change and in subsequent court hearings, the Angels have said they are reclaiming the five-county Los Angeles region as their marketing territory in the hope of attracting more money from advertisers and broadcasters.
“It’s never been about the city,” Angel spokesman Tim Mead said.
“It’s a long-term business strategy with the intent of reaching out to the greater metropolitan marketplace.”
The Angels did not send a representative to Sacramento to explain that to the legislators voting on Tuesday. The Angels have not retained a lobbyist, Mead said.
“Our focus is on the baseball season,” he said.
In the hallway outside the hearing, legislative aides wondered whether the Angels are counting on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to veto the bill if it passes the full Assembly and Senate. Mead said he did not know of any conversation between team officials and the governor’s office.
“I’ve got to think the governor doesn’t want to countenance deceptive advertising,” Umberg said.
When the Los Angeles City Council last year considered a resolution supporting local ownership of the Dodgers -- and, by implication, opposing Boston developer Frank McCourt, the incoming owner -- McCourt retained veteran Los Angeles political consultant Joe Cerrell.
The resolution was withdrawn.
The Dodgers later hired a member of Cerrell’s firm, Howard Sunkin, as a vice president. The council has subsequently opposed the Angels’ name change -- and supported the Umberg bill -- with the endorsement of the Dodgers.
Before the bill can gather enough momentum to get to the governor, Cerrell said, the Angels ought to consider hiring a lobbyist.
“I think they’re more concerned about their team, but I’d be concerned about all the bad P.R. that’s involved here,” Cerrell said. “I’d be up there saying, ‘Why don’t you worry about all the problems facing the state of California? We’re just a baseball team trying to make a few bucks.’
“This doesn’t help the Angels any at all.”
Umberg’s bill requires any pro team that plays in one city and uses the name of another to disclose that fact, unless the home city waives the requirement. Although legislative analyst Kellie Smith warned the committee that courts generally frown upon laws that override existing contracts, and although the Angels have argued in court that their lease grants them sole control over marketing, Umberg said he saw no need to amend his bill.
“It is not interfering with the contract,” he said. “We are not requiring them to rename anything.”
Although Moreno repeatedly has pledged never to sell Angel merchandise with the “Los Angeles” name, a gift shop at John Wayne Airport is selling “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” shirts.
The $26.99 women’s shirts, with pink sleeves and pink lettering on a white background, feature “Anaheim” more prominently than “Los Angeles.” The shirts were made by 5th and Ocean, a Florida apparel company licensed by Major League Baseball.
Teams do not inspect every item produced by licensees, Mead and MLB spokesman Carmine Tiso said.
Mead said the Angels would ask MLB to remind licensees that “we do not want ‘Los Angeles Angels’ or ‘Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’ used on merchandise.”
Tiso said Tuesday that he would check what other products might be coming with the “Los Angeles” name, then did not provide an answer or return several subsequent calls.