St. Louis Rams

NFL owners have many options, but only one right one

Rams owner Stan Kroenke and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell are united in their desire to move the team to Los Angeles.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell are united in their desire to move the team to Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times

All the rancor, vitriol, half-truths and outright lies have been spewed forth with the efficiency of a hydraulic-push manure spreader.

Now it's time for voters to choose a direction.

What? No ... the primary elections have not been rescheduled. I’m talking about the NFL owners.

They convene in Houston Tuesday and Wednesday to decide the fate of the St. Louis Rams, the San Diego Chargers, the Oakland Raiders and two big parcels of land in suburban Los Angeles. It will take 24 of the 32 to sign off on the respective proposals of each to move there.

In one corner, we have Stan Kroenke, who wants to move his Rams from St. Louis to a $2 billion entertainment super-megacomplex in Inglewood that would include the largest stadium in the NFL.

In the other corner, we have Disney CEO Bob Iger, who represents an alternate stadium proposal in nearby Carson that would host both the Chargers and Raiders.

In the middle are the good people of St. Louis, who came forth with a viable plan for a new billion-dollar stadium on the north riverfront, only to be trashed by Kroenke as “unworthy,” and slammed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as “unsatisfactory.”

It is apparent the league wants two teams in Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest market. That makes sense if only because three teams require new stadiums. Moving two to LA leaves only one team homeless, which is why refusing the St. Louis stadium plan may pass through a vote of the NFL's owners but can never pass moral muster.

Bernie Miklasz, the excellent columnist and radio commentator at 101.1 FM, often and accurately refers to the NFL as a cartel. It is an alliance of billionaire owners whose sole purpose is to maximize their own financial interests and nothing else — moral, civic or any other responsibility be damned.

So who knows what will come out of these meetings?

I certainly can't handicap it, but here are the possible scenarios as far as I can see:

Owners approve the St. Louis and Carson stadium plans.

This is the tidiest solution for all concerned ... well, except Kroenke. All the "homeless" teams would land in shiny new venues, Los Angeles gets two teams and St. Louis gets to keep the same-old-sorry Rams.

The problem with this proposal is that NFL Commission Roger Goodell either really loves Los Angeles or really hates St. Louis. Either way, it looks like the fix is in.

Goodell made another attempt to torpedo St. Louis Friday with his ludicrous contention that Kroenke and Co. exhausted all good faith efforts to keep the Rams in St. Louis and that the task force stadium proposal falls short of NFL standards.

The good news is that Goodell's memo was just his recommendation. It's up to the owners — 24 of them to be precise — to decide if the Rams stay or go. Hopefully, they are not as easily led as Goodell and Kroenke presume the good people of St. Louis to be.

Don’t think this decision will be the end of the story, though. Kroenke isn’t bound to move his team to a new St. Louis stadium, and after his unnecessarily vicious attack on the city, fans here may never support him again. Might that factor into the owners’ decision?

Owners pick Kroenke's Inglewood complex over the Carson plan as both are currently proposed.

If this happens, the Rams are gone and the Chargers and Raiders are sent back to the drawing board. It would be interesting, though, to see how Goodell and those owners who support such a plan would sell it as in the "best interest of the NFL."

Chargers’ owner Dean Spanos has worked earnestly for 15 years to get a new stadium for his team in San Diego. The Davis family already has moved the Raiders to LA once, only to return to the same inadequate stadium and a city that still hasn't put a plan for a replacement on the table.

St. Louis, meanwhile, has ponied up for stadiums twice within the last 25 years to keep the NFL in town.

Moreover, what message would be sent to other NFL markets by turning down a nearly half-billion dollar public subsidy? That's not the NFL way.

Could it be Kroenke's promise of a new west coast NFL headquarters and a personal office that overlooks beautiful downtown Inglewood? That's all part of his plan — to make his multi-purpose complex "the hub of NFL activity."

Kroenke hooks Spanos on a partnership plan.

Forget Goodell's ludicrous statement that the Rams meet NFL relocation requirements, even Kroenke recognized that the task force's viable plans for a riverfront stadium would be a hurdle. So he threw a Hail Mary by extending Spanos and the Chargers a share of the Inglewood stadium.

Spanos said that offer was filed "directly in the trash," a personal shot at Kroenke, who reportedly burned him on a previous offer to share the Inglewood property. Plus, the Chargers and Raiders already have united in the Carson stadium project.

But every man has his price, especially in the exclusive fraternity of the filthy rich. Might Kroenke sweeten the pot with an offer too rich for Spanos to refuse?

If so, the owners certainly will fall in behind that joint venture for one reason and one reason only — it makes them more money.

This of course flies in the face of league by-laws, which state pretty plainly that no club has an "entitlement to relocate simply because it perceives an opportunity for enhanced club revenues in another location."

I guess we'll see how much the league's by-laws really mean.

Jerry Jones pulls off a doozy of a deal.

Yes, the Dallas Cowboys' brash owner has aligned himself with Kroenke, Goodell and the rest of the Evil Empire.

Jones reportedly has laid out a plan that would force a Rams-Chargers partnership and dump a bunch of league money in Oakland to build a new stadium for the Raiders.

If his proposal is actually placed before the other owners and approved this week, it would establish yet another contradiction between what the league says and what the league does.

Last month, Goodell issued a "warning letter" to say a $300 million contribution pledged to the St. Louis stadium task force by Bob McNair, Houstan Texans owner and member of the NFL's Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities, is "fundamentally inconsistent with the NFL's program of stadium financing."

On that basis, a whole billion dollar stadium in Oakland would seem preposterously inconsistent.

But that's just me. And I don't get to vote.

BND Sports Editor Todd Eschman: 618-239-2540, @tceschman

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