Missouri State Court Sides Against NFL in Move Petition from St. Louis Rams
On April 3, 2018, a Missouri Supreme Court Judge denied the NFL’s motion to dismiss in its lawsuit against the City of St. Louis, County of St. Louis, and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority (SCA), which operates the St. Louis Rams former stadium. The NFL attempted to argue that the Missouri state court did not have the jurisdictional authority to hear the case where The Rams Football Company, LLC, the NFL, and every NFL owner, 89 separate entities in total, were named in an April 2017 petition.
The petition was drafted and signed after the NFL’s decision to allow the St. Louis Rams to relocate to Los Angeles. According to the petition, the NFL “violated the obligations and standards governing team relocations by seeking and approving the relocation of the St. Louis Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles, California, despite the fact that the Rams failed to satisfy the obligations imposed by the [NFL’s] relocation rules and the fact that relocation was not supported by the required statement of reasons or the adopted relocation standards.” The petition also mentions that the NFL breached its contractual duties and unjustly enriched themselves at the expense of the City, County, and SCA.
According to the NFL’s bylaws on relocating franchises, teams “are obligated to work diligently and in good faith to obtain and to maintain suitable stadium facilities in their home territories.” Between 2010 and 2014, it appeared that St. Louis Rams owner, Stan Kroenke, was going to do everything possible to keep the team in St. Louis. In April 2010, he said, “I’m going to attempt to do everything that I can to keep the Rams in St. Louis,” and added that, “I’ve always stepped up for pro football in St. Louis. And I’m stepping up one more time. I’m born and raised in Missouri.” In 2014, information regarding Kroenke’s purchase of a site of land in Inglewood, California, became public, Kevin Demoff, the teams Chief Operating Officer, said that the land was “not a piece of land that’s any good for a football stadium. The size and the shape aren’t good for a football stadium.”
In response to Kroenke and Demoff’s representations that the team was staying in St. Louis, the City, County, and SCA, hired professionals and entered into contracts to plan, develop, finance, and construct a new St. Louis stadium. They began land assembly, entered into an agreement with an architecture firm, had discussions about moving then exiting railway and transmission lines, initiated and prevailed in litigation to clarify the SCA’s authority to enter into a financing plan, applied for and received $50 million in contribution tax credits, was accepted into the Missouri Brownfields/Voluntary Cleanup Program, got an ordinance passed to assist in the proposed stadium complex, and communicated to the NFL and some of the various NFL team owners about their actions.
According to the petition, the move to Los Angeles cost the City an estimated $1.85-$3.5 million each year in amusement and ticket tax collections, $7.5 million in property tax, $1.4 million in sales tax, over $100 million in net proceeds. The County lost hotel and property tax revenue, as well as sales tax revenue. In addition, the failure to approve the new stadium cost approximately 2,750 construction jobs, more than 600 jobs per year in the City of St. Louis, and the state lost an estimated $15 million in revenue.
In April 2017, the NFL said, “[t]here is no legitimate basis for this litigation …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.”