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Kroenke’s indictment of St. Louis fans doesn’t wash

It was one thing when St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke was just trying to hose the local fan base to further enrich his billionaire self.

But it’s a whole different level of loathsomeness to see a man with deep ties to this area publicly trash it to the world in a desperate bid to get his way in the face of all logic.

Kroenke not only scapegoated the thousands of fans who have suffered through a decade plus of total ineptitude in his efforts to justify a move to Los Angeles. But he ripped the region as being economically backward and unable to support the NFL. Or any other major business, for that matter.

Obviously, he can’t believe what he submitted to the NFL. It’s pretty common knowledge that the Rams enjoy one of the most profitable stadium deals in professional sports. And all the other owners know exactly how much money he is making with the league’s extremely lucrative television contracts.

It’s interesting that he’d want to start this sort of fight with Disney Chairman Bob Iger who was retained to lead the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders stadium effort. After all, Disney is the parent company of ESPN which pays just shy of $2 billion a year for the rights to show NFL games whether fans show up to sit in the seats or not. (That’s in addition to the $1.1 billion Fox pays for broadcasting rights, the $1.0 billion CBS pays and the $950 million NBC pays.)

He can talk all he wants about St. Louis being too small a market for three sports teams. But, as far as media markets go, it’s larger than Pittsburgh (Steelers, Pirates, Penguins)

After I initially wrote this I discovered a Forbes article posted today that makes a similar point, comparing three-sport cities Pittsburgh and St. Louis in Kroenke’s claim that St. Louis can’t afford three teams:

What strikes me as odd about that statement is the use of total personal income as to disqualify St. Louis. By my calculations, Pittsburgh and St. Louis both have total personal income (population times median personal income) of $15.1 billion. When you include the metro areas around each city, St Louis’ TPI is $133 billion versus $118 billion for Pittsburgh. And St. Louis has more (nine) Fortune 500 companies that Pittsburgh (6). Yet the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates seem to be doing just fine.

It’s impossible to believe, no matter how inept an owner Kroenke (who not only rode the Rams into the ground but also presides over a Denver Nuggets team that is among the worst in basketball and a Colorado Avalanche team that used to be a power but now they’re sixth in a seven-team division) has proven to be, he accepts absolutely no responsibility for the current sad state of St. Louis football.

In short, the reason people don’t go to Rams games isn’t because they can’t afford it. It’s because he puts out a bad product. Beyond that, people don’t like feeling as if they’re pawns of billionaires. We’re sort of funny that way. So when we know he wants to stick it to us, why would we keep handing our cash over to him?

Of course, he’s being a jerk on purpose to try to bolster his case for moving by keeping paying customers at bay. But it’s actually an argument in favor of St. Louis’ robust fan base that ANYONE pays to go to Rams games these days.

I would be embarrassed, if I was him to admit that he’s being elbowed out of the market by the NHL Blues. How can an NHL team compete against the mighty NFL?

There is obviously plenty of money to support the MLB St. Louis Cardinals. And anyone who buys tickets on a regular basis knows it is MUCH more expensive to be a baseball fan than a football fan. There are eight regular season home games against 81 in baseball. You could be a card-carrying season ticket holder in the NFL for the cost of being a casual baseball fan. Four season tickets in the bleachers at Busch Stadium cost $6,000 per season. You could sit in pretty fancy digs in the football stadium down the street for all the home games for less than half of that amount.

Yet Busch Stadium remains filled on a regular basis. The Scottrade Center remains filled on a regular basis. Explain that, Mr. Kroenke.

By claiming the Rams can’t compete and that he can’t make money on a product that is universally well known and supported, isn’t Kroenke admitting he’s a failure as an owner more than he’s proved the fans won’t or can’t afford his product?

League owners would be making a terrible mistake if they award the NFL’s least successful owner its second-largest media market. He said playing in St. Louis hurts the league. But L.A. fans are famously fickle in supporting their teams. So can the league take a gamble, after leaving that market open for two decades, on such a lackluster answer for filling it?

It’s a fact that the only reason the Rams are a sentimental favorite to win the LA derby is that they played there for a long time. But it’s also a fact that they -- and the Raiders -- left LA because of total fan apathy for decades. The Rams couldn’t draw in playoff years on the West Coast. You couldn’t beg, borrow or steal a ticket to the St. Louis dome when the Greatest Show on Turf was at the head of the NFL class. Meanwhile, either the Raiders and the Chargers, teams with legitimate need for a new stadium plus with long-established ownership groups that have worked to better the league would be left out in the cold by letting Kroenke have his way. (Of course, that was before Kroenke was calling the shots.)

So, NFL owners, please think twice before you reward Kroenke for being such a despicable member of your exlusive fraternity. Is this sort of behavior, which not only hurts one of your city’s ability to keep its team but could be a PR nightmare for attracting new business and jobs for years to come, you want to represent your brand?

I’m not against LA getting a team. But I don’t think St. Louis needs to be burned to get it. In fact, I really am starting like the sound of “St. Louis Chargers.”

I, too, resent enriching Kroenke to keep our local team. It would be the best of both worlds if we could get rid of him AND keep our team!

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