The past week was a notable one in the NFL-to-Los-Angeles saga.
The league’s Los Angeles relocation committee heard from the Rams, Raiders, and Chargers about their L.A. stadium plans and progress, and about any progress on stadiums in their current cities.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a motion to have Governor Jay Nixon removed from a suit filed by six legislators that claims Nixon overstepped his legal bounds.
Koster maintains the suit doesn’t hold any water because they can’t “allege any actions taken by the Governor at all, much less any action taken in excess of his authority.”
Then the City of St. Louis joined the legal fray, claiming city law says a new stadium must be adjacent to an existing convention facility, and Nixon’s task force’s riverfront stadium plans are not adjacent.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s approach in his desire to move the Rams to L.A. has been intriguing to say the least. He hasn’t participated in any pursuit of a new stadium in St. Louis, and has failed to communicate with Nixon or his stadium task force. All the while, he’s been planning a new stadium in L.A..
Many Rams fans in Los Angeles believe it’s fate that the franchise will relocate. I admit, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But, I don’t think it’s going to be as easy as those fans do.
1) Stan Kroenke may not have the votes he needs. Kroenke, more than buying a franchise, signed on to join an exclusive club when the NFL approved him to be an owner in August, 2010. As in any club, there are rules. If you join an exclusive golf club, you can’t wear jorts and a t-shirt. If you do, you don’t get to enjoy the privileges accorded other members.
To move, Kroenke would require votes from 24 other owners. If he tries to do so without approval, as former Raiders president Amy Trask told Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch in January, there are “safeguards (that) are really draconian. They involve financial penalties and other penalties that really should deter teams from doing things like that without (league approval).”
2) The NFL’s relocation guidelines have changed. There’s a belief that this race to Los Angeles between the Rams, Raiders, and Chargers can be compared to the franchise free agency of the 1990’s, but there is no comparison. The only real guidelines in place back then were to go to the league and tell them you were moving. The NFL was afraid of the costs of anti-trust suits from the teams the league feared it would lose. After the Colts, Cardinals, Rams, Raiders, Browns, and Oilers switched cities, the NFL implemented their current guidelines. Those measures that Trask spoke of weren’t in place, not to mention all the hoops a franchise must jump through now.
The last thing the NFL wants is to set a precedent and open the door to more franchise moves simply because an owner wants to make more money for himself. Some think those guidelines won’t apply, but I believe longtime owners want to avoid the chaos of the late 90’s.
3) Stan Kroenke still isn’t following NFL ownership rules. Kroenke has until the end of this month to meet the league’s guidelines on cross-ownership. League rules say that he can’t own an NFL team in one market, and franchises from other leagues in which an NFL team resides.
Kroenke owns the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets, but the Denver Broncos reside in that city, as well.
When Kroenke finalized the Rams purchase in August, 2010, the league gave him until December of last year to financially divest himself of the Avalanche and Nuggets. He didn’t, and last October Kroenke received an extension until the end of this month to comply.
As of June 15, both team’s websites list Kroenke as their owner.
Is the NFL going to give Kroenke another extension?
And do they really want to play ball on relocation with a man who so openly ignores league rules?
4) The Chargers and Raiders have put forth a viable plan in Carson, California. As Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News reported, that plan is offering something the NFL has desired for quite some time…land for a west coast wing of the Hall of Fame and acreage for NFL Network studios.
As Carson project point man Carmen Policy told Bonsignore of his message to the committee, “Don’t put yourself in an enclosed mall. Don’t put yourself in an arena setting. This is the kind of atmosphere and fan experience the fans in Southern California would want.”
Policy also noted that two co-tenants moving to L.A. at one time makes sense so there isn’t a landlord-tenant relationship, like there was for so many years with the Jets and Giants at Giants stadium.
5) The Rams can’t be counted on to get it right in Los Angeles. Also according to Bonsignore, the Rams (who didn’t comment on their presentation) had a message to the committee that “The NFL has one shot to get it right in L.A. and that’s the Rams in Inglewood.” With due respect to our local franchise, how can they be expected to get it right?
In Kroenke’s 20 seasons of part-ownership or ownership, the team has had four winning seasons. They’ve gone through eight head coaches. Their personnel department has drafted three players in the last fifteen years that have made a Pro Bowl.
An iconic franchise like the Lakers, with sixteen World Championships, had to slash ticket prices this season, cutting $400 tickets down to $119, to get people to come to games. The Lakers won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010, capped three straight finals appearances, and still fans turned their backs.
How will the L.A. populous react to a team that hasn’t had a winning season in eleven years and had the worst five year stretch in history? Can you really trust them to get it right?
6) The Chargers are due. Chargers owner Dean Spanos, as has been mentioned by his front man Mark Fabiani many times, has tried for fifteen years to get a new stadium in San Diego. His family has worked hard with the NFL to get a deal there. San Diego is a great Super Bowl city and would practically be guaranteed a Super Bowl per decade if they built a stadium.
Yet, the powers that be in San Diego, through seven different mayors, have yet to provide a representative offer for the Chargers, who have been involved in ten different stadium plans. Spanos has voiced this issue with owners for years, and there’s much belief among people that cover the league and the Chargers that he has the votes to block a Rams move to Los Angeles.
Of course, any success for St. Louis depends on the success of the Peacock-Blitz task force. If San Diego or Oakland are able to get a stadium plan together, that changes the situation. There are questions, but at the moment, momentum for a stadium in St. Louis is still strong, and there’s little belief that San Diego or Oakland can get something done.
If momentum stays strong for St. Louis, it makes much more sense for the NFL to fix their California problems in California, and block Kroenke from moving the Rams.
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