Forgive me for straying beyond my usual turf of talking about the St. Louis Cardinals. At the very least, this is an issue that is near and dear to many Redbirds rooters:
Some have suggested that St. Louis is just getting what it deserves as karma for stealing the Los Angeles Rams two decades ago.
Might I suggest, however, that the same person is actually responsible both for breaking Los Angeles Rams fans’ hearts in 1995 and St. Louis Rams fans’ hearts in 2016.
Let’s ignore the obvious catalyst for the decision to move: The fans of LA didn’t support the Rams consistently over the decades the team called the West Coast home. It wasn’t as if the team was pulled out without warning. Few went to Rams and L.A. Raiders games. So when the teams pushed for new venues in which to play, they were met with a resounding no.
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As Kroenke so proudly pointed out the last time he stooped to talk to the people of St. Louis several years ago, the Rams wouldn’t have moved to St. Louis if he hadn’t stepped in and bought 40 percent of the team from former owner Georgia Frontiere. His infusuion of cash was needed to help foot the cost of the NFL’s relocation fees.
Knowing that Kroenke understood that the terms of the lease in St. Louis preordained that it was made to be broken before it expired and that he had the right of first refusal to buy the club if it was ever sold, I suggest Kroenke moved the Rams to St. Louis 21 years ago with the intent to someday assume full control of the club and move it back to L.A. to make a ton of money on the deal.
After all, Kroenke is a developer. He finds underutilized and undervalued properties, invests in them and then laughs all the way to the bank.
It’s obvious to everyone except the commissioner of the NFL (not really, we all know Roger Godell is lying through his teeth when he says otherwise) that Kroenke was NEVER interested in negotiating for a new home in St. Louis.
He used the “top 25 percent of NFL stadiums” clause in the Rams lease as an out of his obligations here from the very start of his reign over the Rams. Does anyone seriously believe that Kronke really thought the taxpayers of St. Louis would be willing to spend $700 million for massive upgrades to the Edward Jones Dome that would have only been guarantee his team would play there another six or seven years after they were completed?
Of course he didn’t.
If there was any truth at all to the statement he made to the NFL in his request to move, he didn’t believe local taxpayers would be ABLE to pay that amount, much less willing. He set the bar beyond reach on purpose and, by all accounts, never spent 10 minutes looking at alternative stadium sites in the St. Louis area. Nor did he even once speak to local leaders about the stadium replacement process.
He went as fast as he could possibly proceed to looking at sites in LA. Not San Antonio, not London, not Toronto. He knew where he was going all along.
Really, being focused on LA for 20 years is the only thing that can explain Kroenke refusing to even pretend taking part in finding a new home in St. Louis.
This is the first time in American sports history, at least as far as I can recall, that the owner of the team in question not only didn’t spearhead the effort to build his club a new home -- but in no way participated in the process.
The fix was in from the start. Even before Kroenke swooped in at the last minute to steal the Rams away from Champaign businessman Shahid Khan who was interested in operating the club here. There was no way he wasn’t going to take advantage of acquiring the team at a low price (thanks to being insulated from 20 years of inflation thanks to his original ownership stake) and then putting his plan in action.
Kroenke is supposed to be a leader in the business community in St. Louis. He’s a member of the board of St. Louis Civic Progress, for crying out loud. Instead of helping build the economy of St. Louis, he has not only depressed it to suit his own needs. But he has also slashed and burned the area’s chances of finding another NFL owner (or corporate leader) who would want to call St. Louis home.
What are the odds the NFL would approve the odd team out of the LA derby to move into the proposed riverfront stadium which he (falsely) trashed as the road to “financial ruin?”
Sports are full of tales of deceit and greed. But there isn’t one I can think of that comes close to a man from the St. Louis area who is named after two Cardinals greats, stabs his hometown in the back with zero remorse just to add to his multi-billion fortune.