The news is an attention-grabber, for sure: St. Louis city and county officials are suing the NFL and its owners for a reported $1 billion over the Rams' move to Los Angeles. The officials claim the Rams consistently lied about wanting to stay and the league willfully refused to enforce its relocation policy.
Those actions, say the St. Louis officials, constitute breach of contract and fraud. They didn't specify what they're seeking in damages, but they did mention the $550 million relocation fee the other 31 franchises split, among other items.
After reading the citations St. Louis usedin trying to support its claims, we say: Can't see it. Not enough there to win a huge judgment.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke, Rams CEO Kevin Demoff and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell may or may not be honorable businessmen, but it doesn't appear obvious St. Louis should be highly compensated for the Rams leaving.
The city and county are trying to use about a dozen statements made by those men to prove bad-faith negotiating. Statements such as:
“I’m going to attempt to do everything that I can to keep the Rams in St. Louis." (Kroenke when he took control of the franchise in 2010)
“Our goal is to build a winning organization on and off the field in St. Louis, and that continues to be the goal for the next year, three years, 10 years, 20 years." (Demoff in 2012)
"One-in-a-million." (Demoff in 2014 on the chances of the Rams leaving St. Louis)
“There are no plans to my knowledge of a stadium development.” (Goodell in 2014, after Kroenke bought the land that became the site of the Rams' new stadium in Inglewood, Calif.)
St. Louis contrasted those statements with what Demoff and former coach Jeff Fisher said after the move about their desire to be in LA and their seeming to know a move was coming. The context of those latter statements is not crystal clear, but they don't look good.
Not mentioned in the suit was Demoff last year telling students at the high school he attended in Southern California the move was "two-and-half years in the making."
But go back to those first four statements. There are all sorts of qualifiers in them. The other statements cited are carefully worded, too. The Rams, it appears, were skillful enough to avoid being busted. What Demoff told the high school kids could conceivably be spun as due diligence.
The league, naturally, says the suit is without merit.
“While we understand the disappointment of the St. Louis fans and the community, we worked diligently with local and state officials in a process that was honest and fair at all times,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement.
That will now be for the courts to decide.
The lawsuit makes St. Louis look like a jilted ex who says, "But you promised!" and, "I did everything for you, and this is the thanks I get." The city and county have now been dumped twice by the NFL. This time it wants alimony, and it's stretching to justify an award.
Good luck with that.