Angels With an Identity Crisis

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Angels With an Identity Crisis

We’ve all heard of those state legislatures that debate crucial issues like a resolution saluting National Duck-Calling Week. But when we think of state legislators getting sidetracked on such pedestrian issues, states such as Idaho and West Virginia come to mind.

But not California.

Major League Baseball is at the center of the storm. However, it's not about steroids or any player. So what is it about the name of a pro baseball team that could raise the ire of state legislators in California?

Until last season, this team had gone through three names since the early 1960’s – the Los Angeles Angels, the California Angels and the Anaheim Angels. As of this baseball season, the team has adopted a new, amazingly clunky, official name: the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Seriously, that's the team’s name. As the Los Angeles Times explains:
… Angel owner Arte Moreno and his team were shut out on [May 3]. 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."

... 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.
Just recently, the California Assembly approved Umberg's bill. Soon thereafter, the headline over a San Jose Mercury-News editorial (May 18) summed up the newspaper’s feelings:
The Legislature Gets Paid for This?

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