The City of St. Louis, St. Louis County and the Regional Sports Authority have filed a 52-page petition against the NFL, the 32 NFL teams and their individual owners, asking for damages based on the Ram’s leaving St. Louis for their new home in Los Angeles. The lawsuit has five separate counts: breach of contract, unjust enrichment, tortious interference with a business relationship and two counts of fraudulent misrepresentation against the NFL and the Rams. In essence the plaintiffs are claiming that the NFL failed to adhere to their own NFL relocation guidelines in granting permission to Stan Kroenke to move his teams from St. Louis to Los Angeles. One of the key portions of the NFL’s relocation guidelines is that the team owner must “negotiate in good faith” to try to stay in their home community. Twenty-four of the 32 NFL owners must vote in favor of relocation for the NFL to allow the team to leave. The bylaws of the NFL clearly state that an owner can only vote in favor of relocation if they are satisfied that all of the relocation guidelines have been satisfied.
The lawsuit echoes the sentiments of the St. Louis fan base, that the move to Los Angeles was a foregone conclusion and that once Stan Kroenke decided to build his new Disney Land stadium in L.A. there was nothing St. Louis could have done to keep the Rams. Moving the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles not only dramatically increased the value of the franchise for Stan Kroenke but also offered the promise of increased revenue to the NFL which would trickle into the pockets of all 32 NFL owners. The suit alleges that not only did the NFL violate its own relocation policies but that the NFL and the St. Louis Rams made intentional misrepresentations (that’s legal speak for “lies”) to St. Louis and the RSA, leading them to believe that there was a real possibility of the Rams staying in St. Louis. The petition outlines a litany of statements made by Kroenke and Rams management assuring the public that their plan was to stay in St. Louis while at the same time they are engaging in conduct, such as purchasing land in Los Angeles to build their new stadium, that demonstrated they never had the intention of staying in St. Louis. St. Louis and the RSA spent 16 million trying to satisfy the NFL and the Rams that they could come up with a viable stadium option based on the representations being made to them. The suit claims that the NFL and the Rams were only paying lip service to these relocation guidelines and never had the intention of keeping the team in St. Louis.
The lawsuit was over two years in the making and not thrown together hastily. It outlines a timeline of events, which if proven, could cause some real problems for the Rams, Stan Kroenke and the NFL. One thing we can be sure of is that the NFL and the 32 team owners have the pockets and motivation to defend this suit with everything at their disposal. As a former Rams fan, I personally feel vindicated that my suspicions that the City was not treated fairly are at least partially confirmed. I look forward to seeing how the evidence in this case comes out and what a jury of 12 citizens of the City of St. Louis think of the actions of Stan Kroenke and the NFL.
Listen to Attorney Gonzalo Fernandez, partner with Devereaux, Stokes, and Fernandez discuss St. Louis’ lawsuit against the NFL over the relocation of the Rams on KMOX.