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The easiest solution to the Rams question

This spot of the internet is almost exclusively dedicated to St. Louis Cardinals baseball.

But, recently, a lot of folks have been asking me for my opinion on another sports-related subject, the fate of the NFL rams and the future of pro football in St. Louis.

I’ve addressed my thoughts on a one-on-one basis with some folks and in 140-character tweets with others. So I thought I would take a break from regularly-scheduled programming to lay out my thoughts about St. Louis football here where I can better articulate the way I hope it plays out.

I think it’s safe to assume that most St. Louis Rams fans are also St. Louis Cardinals fans. So, hopefully, I’m not straying too far off course.

To answer the first question: I believe the NFL’s policy on relocation should make it a layup that Rams ownership would be forced to accept St. Louis’ proposed new stadium -- if it becomes a reality -- and the San Diego Charges and Oakland Raiders ought to be allowed to move to their proposed new shared stadium in Carson City.

St. Louis would show its commitment to the league in a major way by building a SECOND stadium for the team in two decades. Fan support, considering this has been the worst team in the NFL for the past 10 years, has been good and the lease the Rams enjoy is one of the most lucrative in professional sports. In short, this isn’t a lost market. It’s very profitable to run an NFL team in St. Louis.

Why would it be OK for the Raiders and Chargers to move? Because the latter two teams have tried and failed repeatedly to build new facilities. Their communities don’t seem interested in making even a minimal effort to keep them. Plus, it would hurt fans the least if their teams moved an hour or two away within their own state. It’s entirely plausible that the bulk of their fan bases could continue to root for their teams. Los Angeles fans have made the eight times a season trip to Oakland to watch home games for 20 years. The airlines and the interstates work in the opposite direction, too.

But... while St. Louis has shown a willingness to build a state of the art venue which the NFL has given its stamp of approval, there is no denying that billionaire owner Stan Kroenke has dollar signs in his eyes over a potential LA move. He’s willfully and completely alienated the St. Louis fan base and there is the distinct possibility that he will go rogue if the league says no to his application to move.

Kroenke could move anyway and put the league, which seems to lose every time in is forced to assert its authority in court, in a very bad and embarrassing spot.

Will the NFL owners have the guts to stand up to Kroenke for the sake of upholding their principles? I doubt it.

Some folks have opined that the Raiders, Chargers or Jacksonville Jaguars could move to St. Louis if Kroenke departs. But those teams have shown an unwillingness to move out of state and Jacksonville is in the middle of a long-term lease that would be tough to break.

So here is my solution that I think is the most direct, plausible and comprehensive answer to all of the issues that have arisen in the Battle for Los Angeles:

The NFL should let the Rams move to Los Angeles on the condition that St. Louis is awarded an expansion team contingent on getting its new riverfront stadium built.

The league has long been interested in expanding beyond US borders. So here’s there chance to add two teams, one in St. Louis and one in London, Mexico City or another locale of their choice.

It’s a move that has precedent. It’s what happened when the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens. The only difference is, in this case, I doubt the league would even stand up to Kroenke and force him to leave the Rams name in St. Louis.

Yeah, I get the argument that the Rams spent the majority of their existence in California. But they had almost all of their glory here. Their only Super Bowl win and two of their three Super Bowl appearances happened during their St. Louis residency. But I admit that’s unlikely to matter to the league...

Here’s how it ought to work:

It is anticipated that the relocation fee for any team that moves to LA would be at or above $1 billion. So, as part of the settlement, the NFL could direct that half of Kronke’s relocation fee could be directed to the effort to build a new stadium in St. Louis. Essentially, that money would replace the cash Kroenke would have had to contribute to the proposed St. Louis facility and to cover the NFL’s share of the financing.

The league gets $500 million, doesn’t have to come up with $200 million to loan St. Louis and doesn’t have to fight a bruising battle with Kroenke. St. Louis gets its building and its team, it’s financing issues suddenly solved.

The league could then waive the expansion fee for St. Louis and award the team to a group led by the impressive leader of the St. Louis stadium effort, Dave Peacock.

I’d think all the money the league would save by not having to finance the LA stadium built by Kroenke or finance the Rams stadium would make up for the loss of an expansion fee. Plus the league could still clean up by charging San Diego and/or Oakland a relocation fee.)

It makes plenty of sense for LA to have two new teams. So why not three? San Diego is practically a southern Los Angeles suburb. That’s a matter for the league to sort out. But it seems that it wouldn’t make much difference to have three teams calling the same city home (even though they’re actually playing in different surrounding communities.)

If they all got a new building, what would owners have to complain about?

Another alternative would be to let the Raiders move in with Kroenke and then give a portion of their relocation fee to the Chargers to build a new stadium in San Diego. But I’m not really concerned about those fine details.

This move:

1) Keeps NFL football in St. Louis and restocks the LA market.

2) It clears up the financing for the St. Louis project and eliminates the enormous problem of trying to make plans contingent on the cooperation of an owner who refuses to speak to government leaders and stadium planners

3) It eliminates the perpetual marketing nightmare of trying to get fans interested in a team whose owner has advertised to the world that he cares nothing about them or their city

4) The league saves money, avoids embarrassing litigation and accomplishes internation expansion. That turns a marketing nightmare into a major positive issue to promote

5) The league makes Dave Peacock and the company he’s tied to (which happens to be one of the league’s corporate sponsors) very happy.

That’s my humble solution.

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