December 4, 2016

Why Rams fans should be over the NFL

By Mike Thomas, Webster University student

Stan Kroenke finished his charade with St. Louis on January 12 when the NFL announced the Rams are moving to Los Angeles. Kroenke not only refused to talk with city and state officials about a new stadium, he trashed the city of St. Louis on his way out. Neither NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell nor any of the other owners tried to stop Kroenke. This marks the second time in less than 30 years St. Louis has lost a football team.

It is not like the Edward Jones Dome was falling apart. It is barely 20 years old. According to the Huffington Post, city and state taxpayers still owe more than $100 million in outstanding debt for the dome. The fate of Rams fans that bought personal seat licenses (PSL) is also up in the air. Will they be ripped off by Kroenke and the NFL like the city of St. Louis was? According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, PSL owners have sued Kroenke for refunds.

Kroenke has raised an issue in the past that the Edward Jones Dome is not a first-tier stadium. In more recent years, billion dollar stadiums have been built in Dallas, New York and San Francisco. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kroenke requested $700 million in upgrades to the Edward Jones Dome in 2013. He refused to chip in any money of his own for the project.

More recently, the St. Louis NFL Stadium Task Force proposed a riverfront stadium that would be funded by tax credits, PSL’s, an NFL loan and an investment by Kroenke. Kroenke would not even consider the proposal.

Adding insult to injury, Kroenke is more than willing to shell out his money for the stadium project in Inglewood. He also has to pay a $550 million relocation fee. According to the Orange County Register, the new stadium could cost up to $2.6 billion. Of course, Kroenke is not going to fully fund this stadium. Instead, he is getting tax credits and loans from the NFL. If the Chargers or Raiders move to Los Angeles, they would be paying rent to Kroenke to share the new stadium. The move to Los Angeles also raises the franchise value of the Rams, which is Kroenke’s real objective. Forbes estimated the Rams franchise value doubled since Kroenke bought the team in 2010, but that was not enough for him.

Kroenke is far from the only greedy billionaire owner in the NFL. Jerry Jones and several other owners championed this move, with Jones using his influence to push it through. This has become standard business practice for NFL owners to shake down cities for public assistance for new stadiums. Since 1982, there has been eight franchise moves, including the Rams and Raiders twice.

Soon, it could be 10 with the uncertain futures of the Raiders and Chargers.
The NFL also has many other problems. One could make the case that Goodell is one of the worst commissioners in the history of sports. He has been heavily criticized for his handling of the Spygate and Bountygate scandal. Goodell’s moral compass led to a three-game suspension to Ray Rice for domestic violence and a one-year suspension to Josh Gordon for a positive drug test in 2014. The officiating has been harshly criticized in recent years, there have been silly rule changes and the overall quality of play has declined in the NFL under his watch. Along with that, the NFL has a long term threat to its future with concussions and player safety.

Many Rams fans will likely root for other teams, but this has destroyed my interest in the NFL. I first became a fan when the Rams moved here back in 1995, and watched them through the good and bad times. I have great memories of the “Greatest Show on Turf” and the 1999 Super Bowl championship team. The bad times include the worst five-year stretch in league history, and an organization that has not had a winning season since 2003. Even with that, the Rams drew better in recent years than the Los Angeles Rams did before their move to St. Louis.

How can St. Louis build a football tradition when the league will not commit to the city? My father’s generation endured the same thing when the Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1988. The NFL later backed out awarding St. Louis an expansion franchise in 1993. The relocation of the Rams to St. Louis was strongly opposed by the NFL in 1995. Now, St. Louis is likely finished as an NFL city despite being labeled as the best sports city by the Wall Street Journal. The Blues and Cardinals have never suffered from lack of fan support. Instead of worrying about the NFL, I will root for the two local teams that do care about their fans and community.

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