Major League Soccer and the owners of Columbus Crew SC have filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that aims to keep the club from moving to Austin, Texas.
The Ohio attorney general and the city of Columbus sued MLS and Precourt Sports Ventures in March, citing an untested 1996 legislation known as the "Modell Law," which the defendants on Thursday called inapplicable and unconstitutional.
"At its core, Plaintiffs are unhappy that Columbus Crew SC, an MLS club, might relocate, and want to use the heavy hand of the state to prevent that possibility," the motion said, according to the Austin American-Statesman. "The Court should reject that attempt and promptly dismiss this case."
The state law cited in the lawsuit says any team receiving government funding or playing in tax-supported facilities must give six months notice as well as an opportunity for local groups to buy the team before moving.
But the defendants' motion argues that only MLS -- and not Precourt Sports Ventures -- is the team's owner, as Crew SC is merely a franchise of the single-body league. Therefore, PSV should not be subject to the law, the motion says, and since MLS itself does not receive tax support from Ohio, neither should the league.
The first Crew statement announcing relocation plans last October refers to PSV as "owner" of the club, while the company's CEO, Anthony Precourt, changed his personal Twitter bio this week from "Owner/Chairman" of Crew SC to "Investor/Operator and Chairman."
The motion also says the law, which was passed in response to Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell moving the NFL team to Baltimore, violates the Constitution's privileges and immunities clause because it prevents the league from conducting interstate commerce and discriminates against out-of-state residents.
PSV announced last year it would explore "dual options" to construct a new stadium in Columbus while also looking for a site in Austin, but Precourt told the American-Stateman days before the lawsuit was filed that he was determined to move to the Texas capital.
In response to Friday's motion, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed one of his own to compel discovery in the case.