NFL Relocation:|The View From St. Louis


     ST. LOUIS (CN) – The one-item agenda for the NFL owners meeting in Houston is not really relocation: it’s about how to use Los Angeles to increase the profits of the NFL’s 32 owners.
     The hubris and gall of St. Louis Rams owner E. Stanley Kroenke was exposed last week when the Rams’ 29-page relocation application was released to the public. Kroenke blasted St. Louis, claiming it couldn’t support three professional sports teams, as well as a proposed riverfront stadium recently approved by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.
     Kroenke and his cronies at Rams Park cherry-picked and distorted St. Louis’ economic reality to make the city sound worse than Detroit. His economic numbers did not include the surrounding counties, which make up the entire metropolitan area and provide most of the team’s supporters.
     When St. Louis’ metropolitan area is included, it matches favorably to cities such as Pittsburgh, which has no problem supporting three professional sports teams. The biggest difference is that Pittsburgh’s three teams are competitive, while only St. Louis’ baseball and hockey teams are.
     The St. Louis Cardinals averaged more than 43,000 fans a game, second-highest in MLB last season. The St. Louis Blues average almost 18,000 a game, right in the middle of the NHL.
     Rams attendance has suffered, but the dismal numbers could be traced to a decade of irrelevance capped by an NFL version of the movie “Major League,” with an owner doing everything he can to alienate an already tortured fan base.
     The latest example of this is the release of the application. The Rams released it on their own. The NFL refused to release it, and the applications of the other two teams vying for L.A. – Oakland and San Diego – haven’t been released.
     Why release such a hit on your home city and fan base? Welcome to life as a Rams fan under Kroenke’s reign of terror.
     Kroenke would like you to believe that St. Louis turned its back on the Rams, despite great investments in the product. He claims the team has spent to the salary cap (isn’t that to be expected?) and has increased coaching and scouting budgets.
     Kroenke fails to mention the team’s 36-59-1 record since he has been the majority owner. The team just completed its ninth consecutive losing season, the longest current streak in the NFL.
     Maybe Kroenke should look the mirror.
     His Colorado Avalanche draw 1,500 fewer per game than the Blues and are among the bottom feeders in NHL attendance. His Denver Nuggets (13,964) are dead last in NBA attendance, as were Kroenke’s Colorado Rapids (15,667) in Major League Soccer.
     If St. Louis is an economic disaster, then why did Kroenke buy the Rams in the first place? Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan had an offer to buy the Rams before Kroenke exercised his right of first refusal.
     If St. Louis is America’s version of the Titanic, as Kroenke would have you believe, then why does he continue to invest in the area? The St. Louis metropolitan area is littered with Kroenke real estate developments and his business associate recently bought 200 acres in a St. Louis suburb for another retail development.
     Probably the biggest insult is Kroenke’s name itself. E. Stanley Kroenke’s mother named him after two Cardinals legends – Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial. What a disgrace.
     Musial, a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, once tried to give back a portion of his salary because he had a poor season. His namesake is trying to rip a team from a community to rise a couple of notches on the Fortune 400 list.
     St. Louis doesn’t do a lot of things right. It has major problems in education, race and policing. But the one thing this city has always done right is sports. Any insinuation to the contrary is a joke.
     Unfortunately, the only joke is the Rams owner and nobody is laughing.

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