• Sid Green

St. Louis' Fight Back Over Rams Exit Could Cost NFL Billions


[1]

Looking back now, it seems incomprehensible that there was a two decade stretch from 1995-2015 in which the NFL had zero franchises in Los Angeles. Despite the layover, there were endless rumors regarding potential relocation efforts for teams such as the Seahawks, Raiders, and Chargers to make Southern California their permanent home. Finally, in 2016, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke would fork over $645 million to the NFL in relocation fees for the right to bring professional football back to Los Angeles. [2]


Unfortunately for Kroenke, the circumstances of the move have come under legal scrutiny, with a 2017 lawsuit being brought forth against the team and the NFL regarding their potential breach of contract to the city of St. Louis. [3]This lawsuit centers around the NFL’s Relocation Guidelines, which lay out the extensive procedures NFL franchises must follow when going through the process of relocation.[4] These guidelines were put in place in response to a flurry of franchise relocations throughout the nineties, as the NFL hoped to make it more difficult for teams to pack up and move in the middle of the night. Interestingly enough, in an effort to win this case, the NFL has done a complete 180, declaring that its relocation guidelines should not act as a formal contract. [5] If this is in fact the case, then there are no true restrictions to prevent other NFL teams from relocating, so long as they receive the proper votes of approval from the league’s other owners. [6] The NFL is clearly desperate to make this case go away by any means necessary, for fear of potential damages and future ramifications for its relocation process.

As for St. Louis’ case against Kroenke and the NFL, the most important issue at hand is whether the Rams acted in ‘good faith’ in their negotiations with St. Louis when the city was attempting to persuade the franchise to stay in town.[7]There are many who believe that the Rams’ move to Los Angeles was inevitable, as it was always Kroenke’s ultimate goal to move the team out of St. Louis. In fact, the Rams’ head coach at the time of the move, Jeff Fisher, is on record stating that he knew the Rams would be relocating when he first took the job, back in 2012.[8]

Finally, one of the key reasons why this case is so important is because of the outlandish dollar figures that are being reported as potential damages against the NFL and Kroenke if they are found liable.[9] There are several factors involved in determining the value of damages for the city of St. Louis as a result of the relocation, including lost revenue for the city, as well as the franchise’s increase in value.[10] With these factors at play, there is real potential that the total figure could reach or even exceed the $10 billion mark.[11] Although both the NFL and Kroenke have access to nearly endless funds, $10 billion is a number that they will not be willing to hand over without a fight. In 2016 the NFL was finally able bring its business back to Los Angeles with Stan Kroenke’s Rams, but ultimately, will the cost outweigh the benefit?




References:

[1] Dickey, J. (2016, January 28). Lessons from the St. Louis' Rams move to Los Angeles. Time. Retrieved from https://time.com/4196690/st-louis-rams-los-angeles/.

[2] DaSilva, C. (2021, February 13). St. Louis seeking over $1 billion for Rams' relocation to L.A. USA Today. Retrieved from https://theramswire.usatoday.com/2021/02/13/rams-st-louis-los-angeles-relocation-1-billion/.

[3] Bleier, E. (2021, September 21). NFL, Rams could face $1 billion settlement in St. Louis Relocation Lawsuit. InsideHook. Retrieved from https://www.insidehook.com/daily_brief/sports/nfl-rams-facing-settlement-1-billion-relocation-lawsuit.

[4] BB&D, on behalf of regional St. Louis entities, files lawsuit against NFL, NFL teams, and team owners arising out of relocation of Rams franchise. Blitz, Bardgett, & Deutsch. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bbdlc.com/blitz-bardgett-deutsch-on-behalf-of-regional-st-louis-entities-files-lawsuit-against-nfl-nfl-teams-and-team-owners-arising-out-of-relocation-of-rams-franchise/.

[5] Florio, P. (2021, August 27). In effort to win St. Louis lawsuit, NFL disavows its relocation guidelines. ProFootballTalk. Retrieved from https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2021/08/27/in-effort-to-win-st-louis-lawsuit-nfl-disavows-its-relocation-guidelines/.

[6] Id.

[7] Frederickson, B. (2021, September 17). Benfred: NFL relocation guidelines don't mean much to league lawyers, but they could to jury after decision by judge. STLtoday.com. Retrieved from https://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/ben-frederickson/benfred-nfl-relocation-guidelines-dont-mean-much-to-league-lawyers-but-they-could-to-jury/article_54874518-c518-5523-bfff-92c3069b3ae9.html.

[8] Kalbrosky, B. (2016, December 29). Jeff Fisher reportedly knew in 2012 Rams were moving to Los Angeles. USA Today. Retrieved from https://theramswire.usatoday.com/2016/12/27/los-angeles-rams-jeff-fisher-knew-about-move-from-st-louis/.

[9] Rams, NFL near potentially costly trial. Front Office Sports. (2021, September 21). Retrieved from https://frontofficesports.com/rams-nfl-near-potentially-costly-trial/.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.