There was a chuckle and a bit of exasperation on the other end of the phone line from Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver. “I never said that,” he answered when I asked him what that “moving the team stuff” was all about. “I’m not going anywhere,” he added, unsolicited. There had been a big uproar in recent weeks about the Jaguars disagreement with the city regarding revenue generated from advertising inside the stadium. It was reported that Weaver threatened to move the team if he didn’t get his way. Although the reports even said he admitted to saying that out of frustration with the negotiations, Weaver says he never made any threats. “I’m committed here, and we’re trying to work though this right now.”
Making his millions originally in the shoe business, Wayne Weaver has a sense of style, is passionate about whatever he’s doing, but first and foremost, he’s a businessman. He knows how to make money and understands the competitive aspect of business. He’s not afraid to be tough; some might even say rough around the edges when it comes to getting his way. From the outside he doesn’t seem to be ruthless, but I’ve been in a few deals with him and privy to others enough to know you don’t want to tangle with him unless you’ve got your facts straight and you’re right.
Weaver disagrees with the city’s and the Gator Bowl’s interpretation of the rights granted to the Jaguars for ownership of the signs inside the stadium. Who knows who’s contract is enforceable, but one thing’s for sure, Weaver believes he’s right and when he believes he’s right, he usually is.
In his quest for an NFL team in the early 90’s, he showed all sides of his personality. He organized a business plan that would meet the league’s specifications. He put together a group of people who could execute the plan. He schmoozed with the owners. He smiled for reporters. He had pen in hand ready to sign over millions to the league, and they turned their nose up and said, “give us a month.”
That’s when Wayne got hot.
The day after granting a team to Charlotte and telling the Jacksonville organization to cool their heels for a while, I was standing with Weaver outside of the NFL’s temporary offices in Chicago while he was waiting to meet with NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
“What are you going to tell him,” I asked.
“That I came here to get a football team not to get jerked around,” Weaver responded with a clenched jaw and a squinty stare.
“We’re getting a football team,” Wayne’s brother Ron once told me during the whole process. “How do you know?” I asked, shaking my head. “Because my brother wants one, and when he figures out what he wants, he goes and gets it. Always has,” Ron said without it being a brag or a threat.
So somewhere in the meeting rooms between the Jaguars, the city and the Gator Bowl there have been some hotly contested negotiations about money. Having signed on to run the ACC Championship game, the Gator Bowl is looking for new revenue. Weaver’s trying to maximize his money and the city is trying to make everybody happy.
Did Weaver threaten to move? It wouldn’t surprise me if he blurted that out at some time. But did he mean it even if he said it? I don’t think so. Covering up around 10,000 seats in the stadium isn’t the move of a man who’s thinking about taking his toy elsewhere. The Jaguars could do a much better job of connecting with the fans and potential fans here in the city, but a move? No. At least not yet.