Rams owner could force NFL to let him leave St. Louis by refusing new stadium, says crazy report

CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora clearly has some good league sources (or some sources who want to feed him information or disinformation for their own reasons, as the case may be), but he must’ve been hepped up on goofballs when typing out yesterday’s article on St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s lease options:

St. Louis could, according to NFL regulations, present a stadium plan that makes it nearly impossible for Kroenke to move the Rams, but, given the nature of the team’s lease with the Edward Jones Dome, Kroenke could not have to play in any new facility.

He has the capacity to go year to year with the Edward Jones Dome through 2025, sources said, and thus, even if blocked from moving in 2016 and potentially losing out on the LA market — and no one knows what the ultimate outcome of relocation will be at this point in the process — he could still essentially bide his time in his current stadium and wait for other options to emerge (London?) rather than enter into a binding, long-term agreement with a new St. Louis stadium.

Um, what? If St. Louis indeed comes up with a lucrative new stadium offer (which they’re working on, and half a billion dollars is nothing to sneeze at) that convinces the NFL that it shouldn’t let the Rams move to L.A., then La Canfora speculates that Kroenke could refuse to accept it, because he wants to badly to move to L.A. — which he wouldn’t get to move to in this scenario anyway, but maybe could move to another city eventually, presumably if offered a lucrative stadium subsidy, like the one he’d be turning down in St. Louis to … I’m sorry, this plotline is way too convoluted to untangle. (There’s also a bit later on where La Canfora say that Kroenke could force the NFL to let him move — but not to L.A. — in order to open up St. Louis for a different team to move to. But really, let’s not go there.)

If there’s any takeaway from all this, it’s that it seems like NFL insiders are just as confused about what’s going to happen with the L.A. move gambit as the rest of us. Or that they’re having a tough time getting their story straight. Maybe Roger Goodell needs to hire a continuity supervisor.


28 comments on “Rams owner could force NFL to let him leave St. Louis by refusing new stadium, says crazy report

  1. Looks like we could see expansion in the NFL’s future. Stan Kroenke gets a new team in LA along with expansion for three other teams and we go back to three divisions per conference.

  2. Sorry, but this doesn’t seem that convoluted or impossible. All it would take is for Kroenke to have decided that St Louis isn’t a market he wants to be in long term. In that case, even if St Louis offers a new stadium that makes the NFL refuse his current request to move, he may rather go year to year and keep playing chicken with the league rather than sign on for 15-20 more years in St Louis. Especially if he thinks he can get just as good a deal for a stadium elsewhere, and/or he thinks some other owner wants the St Louis market instead of their current one (which would let him off the hook).

    Not sure why you don’t find that at least plausible.

  3. What other market would he prefer to St. Louis, though? Market size doesn’t matter much in the NFL for individual team owner profits — what, does he just hate St. Louis so much that he wants to get out of there, but the NFL for some reason won’t let him? And it hasn’t occurred to him to just sell the Rams and buy some other team?

    The premise of this theory is that there is a “hook” that Kroenke is on, which is that the NFL won’t allow a team to move if it has a stadium offer from that city. Sure, the league says that, just like it says lots of things, but the owners make the rules, and can change this one if they want to. The only reason they’d make Kroenke stay against his will is if they really, really dislike him, and at that point him threatening to take his stadium offer and go home isn’t going to help him much anyway.

    If there’s anything to the report here, it’s that there is conceivable a scenario where St. Louis offers a stadium deal that’s good enough for the NFL to tell Kroenke to take it, but not so good that Kroenke is sure he actually wants it. That’s not real likely — sports owners aren’t in the business of telling their colleagues what offers to take — but it’s at least a possibility.

  4. Maybe the price of Walmart stock will keep declining thereby reducing the net worth of his wife thereby forcing him to sell the team to a more decent human being than himself. Or maybe not.

  5. And actually I think we agree on a major point: the NFL won’t “make” him stay. But they can make it so he can’t move to LA. Either because they don’t want to deal with a situation in which a city and state offered tons of free money and an owner turns it down, or because they want to wait and figure out how to do LA in a way that gives the other owners the most money (relocation fee vs expansion fee), and don’t want to rush to do so. In which case he easily just decides “this isn’t the time yet” and waits.

    I guess you disagree in how likely this scenario is. It just seems to me that it’s not that hard to see a scenario where St Louis offers up a big stadium deal (to try and save the team) and the NFL isn’t ready to let the Rams move to LA now (for whatever reason, not only because the St Louis deal is so great) – and so Kroenke decides he’d rather go year to year and put on more pressure instead of taking the deal for a new St Louis stadium. Or maybe you agree that’s completely possible, but just hated the original article’s spin: a deal so good the NFL will force Kroenke to try and take it.

    As to you first paragraph, it’s not like somebody is making up that he’s trying to leave St Louis, or at least raising the possibility. And to some of your questions/thoughts:
    – given, as you say, the market doesn’t matter much for profitability in the NFL, maybe he would personally prefer to be in a different market. Because he enjoys that town more, or thinks it would give him better profile, or it’s closer to his grandkids, or whatever reason. When market size doesn’t matter that much to profits, that only opens up more options to move, not fewer. Why does he have to hate St Louis, and not just like LA, or San Antonio, or London, or anyplace else better? And are you seriously saying that if you want to move cities in the NFL the other owners just let you do whatever you want? (I know you’re not, but see how carried away you can get with a string of arguments against straw men?)
    – Nice to say why not sell the team and buy another, but with only 29 other teams out there, how likely is it that he can do that? And the transaction fees alone involved in that strategy would be huge, even if a small percentage of the value involved in each sale/purchase. Especially if he has places in mind that don’t have a team (LA and perhaps a back-up that’s not already a NFL city), it seems far more likely to move the franchise you already own than to sell yours and hope to buy one already owned by somebody else in a city you like better.

  6. If he tries this, I hope St. Louis can time it right and tell Stan he has to sign a 20 year extension for the dome or agree to the new stadium. It would be tricky because he would almost certainly try to move then but would be awesome if we could the tables on that bastard.

  7. Of the 10 most valuable NFL franchises (according to Forbes), seven of those are in the 10 most populous cities in the US (there’s a small cheat in that San Jose is 10th, and that’s where the 49’ers stadium is, but SF itself is 13th, so the whole of the Bay Area would probably move it easily into the top 10). There are other things that go into why a team might be worth more beyond just market—the Cowboys are tops despite being in market size no. 9 and the Raiders are near the bottom despite being neighbors to the 9’ers—but that’s a lot of overlap.

    The corporate sponsorship and local media dollars (“It’s the Jerry Jones Show on 103.5 The Fan!”) that aren’t shared have to be significantly larger in LA. I also imagine there are a lot more super rich people who could/would pay a premium above the equivalent club/suite seats in St. Louis (that money also isn’t shared if I’m not mistaken). Granted, almost any NFL team anywhere is guaranteed to be successful as a business because of the TV money. And because of scarcity, if any team went up for sale it would likely fetch an enormous price, regardless of the city. But from a revenue standpoint, being LA is almost certainly worth way more than being in St. Louis.

    The Rams currently rank 28th by Forbes, with operating income of $34M. Ballpark the second most valuable team in NY (the Jets) as a comparable for what Kroenke might pull down in LA, and that operating income number jumps to $118M. Also, I detest Forbes and their click inflating slide-shows. I feel dirty for having had to click through to the end.

  8. You see how we NFL owners do it? A whole city and state chasing after Stan to throw money at his billionaire ass. La Canfora is one of the finer tools in the toolkit.

  9. People keep saying the revenues will be so high in LA. Sure maybe for the first couple of years, but what about when the novelty wears off? We’ve already seen how apathetic LA fans are. Why will it be different now? The only answer I get when I ask that is “because it will”.

  10. @ Aqib What evidence do you have that Los Angeles fans are apathetic??? The St Louis Rams have had one of the lowest attendance rates of any football team the last 10 years! So…………………….um does that mean that people in St Louis aren’t real fans? Or that people in St Louis are over the novelty of an NFL team? Or that everyone in St Louis is fake,phony,apathetic, and doesn’t really care about sports?
    When teams win attendance goes up. When teams lose attendance goes down.

    IT’S THAT SIMPLE

  11. New stadiums/teams do tend to go through a honeymoon period of 2-8 years (toward the shorter end when the team is lousy, on average). I’d say that’s less of a factor in the NFL, though, where there are fewer games to sell tickets for, and so fewer unsold seats.

    Anyway, all that money is shared with the league, so team owners don’t care about it so much anyway. The big questions are whether L.A. can bring in tons more money in things like PSL sales and ad revenue, and the jury’s still out on that.

  12. While I agree that Canfora’s piece appears based on circular reasoning (and not all that sound circular reasoning…), there are options.

    Kroenke doesn’t necessarily have to put the for sale sign out if he just (for whatever reason) wants out of Stl. He could simply say to the NFL “If you like the $500m St. Louis deal so much, here, you take it”.

    It would be a version of the play MLB owners seem to love so much….
    “I don’t want my market, I want another. But I don’t want to sell and have to apply to get back in the club… because the club is pretty damn good and I make a lot of money, even in this dump. Not that there isn’t room for improvement obviously”.

    So Kroenke agrees to sell the Rams to his fellow owners (aka, the league), they agree to sell him LA (but perhaps not all of it) and then hold a lucrative new auction to find someone desperate enough to become an NFL owner that they will jump at the deal Kroenke turned his nose up at and pay $1.1Bn for the privilege.

    I think Kroenke really wants to move the Rams back to LA, not get an expansion team in their place. But the option exists… and every time there is an option there is a window for negotiation (or extortion, as some of us like to think of it). Maybe he’d take the LA market and $250m in cash of the sale price of the Rams to go toward his stadium, plus some other perks (G4 etc). It’s impossible to say.

  13. Anecdotally, it would seem like teams use the unshared premium seat revenue to pad their budgets for luxury items like hiring top coaches, top assistants, and having amenities to attract top free agents. While the revenue sharing money probably dwarfs the amount teams earn from ticket sales, teams that have better markets and revenue-friendly stadiums are pulling away from the rest. Teams that were solid in the 1990s and early 2000s–like the Bills, Bucs, and Jaguars, as well as the Rams–seem to have trouble keeping up. It may just be ownership.

    With three big-league sports teams, a city far from rich (though with a decent corporate scene for now), and a lot more competition for the premium sports dollar (i.e. Mizzou joining the SEC), Kroenke may have concluded that no stadium deal is going to give him access to the revenue available in LA.

    This isn’t about fan passion–it is about institutions and individuals buying expensive seats year after year, without really asking much about it. Not every metro area can do that.

  14. There does seem to be some evidence that big markets mean more in the NFL now than a decade or so ago. It’s something I hope to research soon, if I can get some time free.

  15. “The big questions are whether L.A. can bring in tons more money in things like PSL sales and ad revenue, and the jury’s still out on that.”

    And it really would have to be “tons” – and tons and tons and tons – to make up for the cost of a build-it-yourself stadium in LA vs a heavily subsidized one in Saint Louis. But we are talking about the toys of some of the richest people on the planet, for whom all of that may not matter much.

  16. But again, why else would Kroenke want to go to L.A. if not for profit? He doesn’t seem like the type to be yearning for the Hollywood lifestyle.

  17. @Alan – were you not around in 94 when the Raiders and Rams left. Sure the Rams were rebuilding at that moment after being a perennial contender through the 80s. The Raiders made the playoffs in 1993. In fact they made the playoffs 7 out of 13 years in LA and won a Super Bowl. Now I know the excuse you’re going to use is “the Coliseum is in a bad neighborhood” although that same stadium has no problem drawing for USC games.

  18. @Neil – “But again, why else would Kroenke want to go to L.A. if not for profit? He doesn’t seem like the type to be yearning for the Hollywood lifestyle.” Maybe, but you’re forgetting a few things here.

    1) Team valuation. According to Forbes the Rams are 28th in team valuation (http://www.forbes.com/pictures/mlm45fljdi/28-st-louis-rams/) ahead of only Cincinnati, Detroit, Oakland, and Buffalo. A move to the much larger LA market and into a state of the art stadium will dramatically increase the team’s value, probably into the top 5 and some think to #2 behind only Dallas.

    2) St. Louis is a shrinking market. (http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/st-louis-continues-to-drop-in-population-but-the-loss/article_39384828-12ef-517d-bb97-320939de4b72.html) People have been fleeing St. Louis since the 1950’s when the city was at its peak population. Locals like to talk about the “greater St. Louis area” to boost the numbers while conveniently forgetting to include the entire Bay Area when talking about the Oakland market, or including all the various cities in the greater Los Angeles market. Kroenke and all the other NFL owners know the way St. Louis is heading and to force him to stay in a dying market is not going to hold up in court. If current trends continue, and there’s no realistic reason to think they won’t, where will St. Louis be in 20 years as a market and where will LA be? The two just don’t even begin to compare.

    3) St. Louis is the most dangerous city in America and the 19th most dangerous city IN THE WORLD (http://www.businessinsider.com/the-50-most-violent-cities-in-the-world-2015-1). Congrats St. Louis, you stole (most likely literally) the crown from Detroit and you beat out Kingston, Jamaica and Juarez, Mexico. Why would the NFL force Kroenke or anyone else to stay in a city like this? If the NFL wants to clean up its image it can start by letting a team move out of America’s most violent cesspool. Local spin doctors will say that these stats are incorrect because they include municipalities other than the city of St. Louis proper. They want it both ways — include those municipalities to inflate the population stats and exclude them to deflate the murder stats. Sorry fellas, you can’t have it both ways.

    4) The attendance in St. Louis has been dismal, at or near the bottom of the league, for years. Again the local spin doctors will say that this isn’t their fault: “We didn’t fail the NFL, the NFL failed us”. As always they want to have it both ways. “Our attendance was great during the GSOT days and it will be again once the team gets good again. Oh, and the fans in LA sucked, they were just fair weather fans.” Maybe if they lived in a city with better weather they’d have some idea of what “fair weather fan” means, and realize that the Rams fans in St. Louis literally define the term. It seems that you are against the move, Neil, but to say that the Rams would only be a novelty for a few years in LA is to ignore the attendance for the current LA sports teams (pick whichever ones you want, college or pro, they’re all good).

    5) None of us know what Kroenke’s motivation is. It’s easy to say that it’s just about money and maybe it is, but let’s at least be open to the idea that it’s more than that. Kroenke and his WalMart heiress wife are one of the wealthiest couples in America and one thing we can all agree on is that they don’t need any more money. Their billions are more than they and their descendants for 5 generations could spend, and their investments aren’t drying up any time soon. So what more could they possibly want? What do the owners of WalMart lack? The respect and admiration of the public, maybe? The WalMart children are pretty universally reviled for the way WalMart treats its employees and for its cutthroat business tactics and Stan is now persona non grata in St. Louis. Stan is in the golden years of his life — how many times has he appeared in public and had people cheering for him and holding giant cardboard cutouts of his smiling face? That’s got to feel good, it’s an undeniable ego boost that we’d all love to experience, and now he has. He may be a villain in St. Louis and wherever WalMart has driven small local businesses into bankruptcy and wherever WalMart employees live below the poverty line, but when he was in LA for the Rams-Cowboys scrimmage he was a hero. And not a hero in some podunk little town but a hero in the second largest market in America and one of the largest in the world. Isn’t it possible that this old man would like to be the guy who brings the Rams back to LA and in doing so become a hero to millions? Look at the life Jerry Buss had in LA, he was the king of the town. http://terez-uploads.s3.amazonaws.com/2009/11/buss5.jpg Stan may never be the swinger Jerry was but he can still feed off the love and attention from the LA fans. He and Anne could walk through Inglewood and be cheered, and become national figures for a positive reason. You might think this is all about money but doesn’t the possibility of building a positive legacy seem at all logical to you, Neil? And what would that be worth to a man with multiple billions of dollars? His and Anne’s WalMart stock could double and it wouldn’t make him any more popular (it might even have the opposite effect) but building a stadium in LA and bringing his team to play in it would instantly change the way millions of people see him. That would ordinarily be one of those things that money cannot buy but in his case it’s in his grasp, he’s just got to write the check.

  19. “It seems that you are against the move, Neil, but to say that the Rams would only be a novelty for a few years in LA is to ignore the attendance for the current LA sports teams”

    I’m not for or against the Rams moving to LA, and I’m not the one who said an LA team would only be a novelty for a few years — I said that honeymoon periods were less of a factor in the NFL, remember? I am, however, skeptical that any move of an NFL team from anywhere to anywhere can be worth an extra $1.3 billion in stadium costs, and no one has been able to show me numbers to prove otherwise. I’m going to investigate further soon, though.

    On the “positive legacy,” sure, maybe? Though remember that Kroenke also owns the Avalanche and Nuggets, and he hasn’t seemed very interested in using those for an ego boost. He just doesn’t fit the profile of a guy who’d say “I don’t care if I lose money, I want to own a football team in L.A., dammit!” — which makes me wonder what else is going on here.

  20. Jake –

    It was me who called LA fans fair weather not Neil. The Rams weren’t as bad in LA as they have been the last decade in St Louis. Few teams have ever had a run like this. The Rams were drawing in the 40,000s in the early 90s despite having played in the NFC title game in January 1990.
    As for the Kroenke’s not needing anymore money, of course they don’t. You could say that about anyone worth over $50 million but that’s not the way the world works.
    Lastly, the comparison between Kroenke and Jerry Buss doesn’t fly. Buss won 9 titles. Kroenke is more along the lines of Donald Sterling. A guy who got rich in a not all that kosher way and bought a sports team that he proceeded to run poorly. How popular was Sterling in LA after bringing an NBA team there?

  21. @ aqib – Oh I know who called LA fans fair weather, it was you and everyone else in St. Louis who tries to justify the poor attendance at the EJD. The fact is that BOTH cities have fair weather fans because people everywhere jump on the bandwagon when a team is doing well. The only cities without fair weather fans are those cities where there is nothing else going on and football is literally the only game in town – but don’t expect the incredibly loyal Rams fans in The Lou to admit to that. The St. Louis Spin (which would be an appropriate name for an MLS team if StL ever got one) is that the LA fans who felt screwed by Frontiere or lost their jobs as the local aerospace industry collapsed and stopped attending were bad and disloyal fans, but the fans in St. Louis who are doing the exact same thing are only thrifty victims who are unwilling to shell out money on a bad team. Oh, and then of course there is the wailing about Kroenke: “He hasn’t spoken to us in 3 years!” as if that means a damn thing to real fans.

    “You could say that about anyone worth over $50 million but that’s not the way the world works.”

    So what are you saying here, that because the rich like to get richer that means that this MUST be a play for money on Kroenke’s part and nothing else? That it’s the way the world works? Sports is full of owners who seem to be driven by ego as much as the bottom line: Jerry Jones, Mark Cuban in the NBA, even the dearly departed Al Davis so to declare that you (or I, or anyone else) knows Kroenke’s motives is kidding themselves. I could easily see the two (profit and popularity) going hand in hand, one the icing on the other’s cake. But you’ve got the whole world figured out in a way that the rest of us do not so I’d best take your word for it – the rich only want 1 thing and 1 thing only. Got it. Thank you Aqib.

    “Kroenke is more along the lines of Donald Sterling”

    Hmm, maybe you’re right. Maybe the two circumstances are the same. Let’s see. Sterling moved the Clippers to LA in ’84, long after the Lakers had already established themselves in the LA market. Wasn’t ’84 during or just after the “Showtime” years when the Lakers were winning NBA titles with Magic, Kareem, and Worthy? I don’t have time before work to look it up but I think it was. It’s hard to fathom why Sterling wasn’t given the royal treatment when he arrived in town with his mediocre Clippers team when the Lakers were already there. Now let’s look at a Rams move in 2015. Kroenke would be returning the Rams to the city that was their home for half a century, and into a market that has been without an NFL team for two decades. “Football starved” might be an apt description. There is no other NFL team in town, no team with some of the biggest names in the game, no team hoisting Lombardi trophies. So no, Kroenke moving to LA is absolutely nothing like Donald Sterling moving the Clippers to LA. To compare the two is kind of ridiculous. It’s not apples-to-apples or even apples-to-oranges, it’s more like astronauts-to-oranges. Saying the two are even remotely comparable would be as crazy as deep frying something (let’s say… a ravioli, why not?), calling it “toasted” instead of fried, and then bragging about it as a regional delicacy.

  22. Jake, that’s now two straight comments from you where I’ve had to edit out a personal attack that violated the site commenting rules. (I’d have emailed you directly about this, but you gave a fake email address.) Third strike and you get a visit to the penalty box.

  23. Actually Jake I’m not from St Louis. In fact I have only visited St Louis once and that was this summer. I’ve been to LA a few times and in fact I am a USC fan. I like both cities just fine but I just don’t think St Louis should lose its team again.
    The comparison between Kroenke is that they both made the a lot of money but generally aren’t very good people (Kroenke has a tendency to get sued by his partners a lot, Sterling is well documented) and don’t run their teams particularly well.
    If you think Jones doesn’t have money has one of his highest concerns look at the monstrosity in Arlington. Does he really need to charge $90 for a pizza in the luxury box in order to be able to pay Dez Bryant?
    Cuban leverages his Mavs ownership into a bunch of marketing deals.
    If Kroenke cared so much about legacy why did he facilitate the move out of LA in the first place? Does he have sudden pangs of guilt due to the amount of indifference people in LA have felt over 20 years. Of course his legacy in LA comes at the price of being a villain in St Louis. If Stan and his wife want a legacy and don’t care about money play the WalMart staff a living wage.

  24. It seems silly to always make this a morality play.

    If the requirement were to sell 50-60,000 NFL game tickets at, say, $70 a piece, there’s no evidence that St. Louis or Los Angeles would fail to accomplish that. (That said, a great way to lose fans is to tell them several times a year how awful their stadium is and how bad a game experience it is).

    What is differentiating these markets is the concentration of corporations and extremely high income folks that are ready to pay several thousand a year in PSL and/or ticket costs in a multi-year deals for premium seats. This has nothing to do with loyalty, knowledge of the game, etc but is a reflection of reality far outside of football.

    We could fairly question whether it is sensible for the NFL to demand subsidies from taxpayers on one hand while deliberately working to exclude all but the wealthiest fans from the stadium.

    If Jerry Seinfeld said we’re all really just rooting for laundry, should we add a caveat that we’re really just rooting for high-income fan bases?

  25. Whoa, guys, shouldn’t we be rooting for the outcome that costs taxpayers the least amount of money, isn’t that why we go to this site in the first place? So as a completely disinterested fan of these teams and cities (my Bucs already got a fairly new stadium 100% free of charge for their billionaire owners), cheers for the LA Rams and SoCal Chargers of Inglewood, CA!

  26. I agree with Sergiio. Plus, if a team is actually in LA than that threat is neutralized a bit when the next team (Denver Broncos? Their stadium is 15 years old) comes with threats to its local taxpayers.

  27. The NFL in LA will only work following the Giants/Jets Metlife stadium financing model. The Inglewood plan is a farce and the Chargers and Raiders are more popular than the Rams in LA.

    This whole LA relocation debacle is hanging on St. Louis at this point. The Rams will stay in St. Louis if the public forks over the funds and the Chargers and Raiders move to Carson.

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