That Hail Mary lawsuit filed by the city and county of St. Louis earlier this year against the NFL for allowing the Rams to move to Los Angeles without following the league’s own relocation rules still seems like a longshot to win, but it looks like it’s at least going to go to trial:
St. Louis plaintiffs suing the Rams and National Football League over the team’s relocation to Los Angeles scored a victory in court Wednesday after a judge largely denied pretrial motions by the league and its member clubs.
St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Christopher McGraugh also denied motions to dismiss some 85 defendants, including all member teams and members of their ownership groups, for lack of jurisdiction. McGraugh also denied the Rams’ efforts to send the case to arbitration under the terms of the Dome lease between the team and the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority.
To recap, in brief: Rams owner Stan Kroenke decided to move his team to L.A. in 2016, despite having a $477 million offer on the table for a new stadium in St. Louis; the NFL’s relocation rules say that “clubs are obligated to work diligently and in good faith to obtain and to maintain suitable stadium facilities in their home territories”; the NFL told Kroenke, “it’s cool, go ahead and move,” mostly because Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones thought Kroenke had “big balls”; and then the city and county sued for unspecified damages on the grounds on fraud and unlawful interference with the business relationship between St. Louis and the Rams. Kroenke tried to argue that this should be subject to arbitration under the Rams’ lease, though given that he’d already chosen to terminate the lease under the lease’s state-of-the-art clause so he could either demand a new stadium or move, that takes a lot of gall, you know?
The interesting part of this isn’t so much whether the plaintiffs can win — even if St. Louis can claim $100 million or so in damages, that’s a rounding error for an NFL franchise — as what they’ll now be able to pursue in the discovery phase of the trial. The NFL already complained that the plaintiffs’ discovery requests were “extraordinarily broad, burdensome and intrusive,” which makes it sound like there’s some juicy stuff they don’t want to turn over, likely involving internal communications around the relocation deliberations. While the league could choose just to pay off the city to make this whole mess go away, I kind of hope it doesn’t — as much as it would be nice to set a precedent that sports leagues have to pay the public when they allow teams to move without following their own rules, I’d find it way more valuable to hear what other stupid crap came out of Jerry Jones’s mouth.