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St. Louis sues Rams and NFL over team's departure

Could San Diego sue? Doubtful. It had its chance.

St. Louis Rams stadium. "The discovery phase of the St. Louis suit promises to be oh, so tasty."
St. Louis Rams stadium. "The discovery phase of the St. Louis suit promises to be oh, so tasty."

St. Louis, St. Louis County, and the local Regional Convention and Sports Complex are suing the National Football League, 32 of its teams, and some owners individually over the departure of the Rams to Los Angeles 15 months ago. The plaintiffs seek damages and restitution of profits.

Here are the charges: breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraudulent misrepresentation, and tortious interference with business. The fraudulent misrepresentation charges specifically cite Rams owner Stan Kroenke for saying things like "I'm going to attempt to do everything I can to keep the Rams in St. Louis" — a statement from 2010. In 2014, the executive vice president of the Rams allegedly said that there was a "one-in-a-million chance" that the Rams would leave St. Louis.

Kroenke has already moved the Rams to Los Angeles and played last season in the Coliseum. When his new stadium and real estate complex opens in Inglewood in 2019, the former San Diego Chargers will also occupy it. The Chargers' chief executive, Dean Spanos, kept repeating he would do everything possible to keep the Chargers in San Diego.

The plaintiffs charge in the suit that the City of St. Louis will lose $1.85 million to $3.5 million each year in amusement and ticket tax collections, as well as approximately $7.5 million in property taxes. In total, the city will have lost more than $100 million in net proceeds, according to the suit, says The Guardian.

San Diego lawyer Bruce Henderson sued the city in the mid-1990s, claiming that the team, which was then threatening to move unless it got a rehabbed stadium, was violating its contractual terms with the city. "We were fought tooth and nail by the city, the Union-Tribune, you-name-it," says Henderson. He lost the suit.

Henderson doubts that San Diego could use the same legal strategy as St. Louis. In 2002, the city wanted to get rid of the unpopular 60,000 seat guarantee, which obligated the city to pay when seats were not filled. In return, then-Mayor Dick Murphy and former City Attorney Casey Gwinn "rewrote the contract to give the Chargers the absolute right to leave San Diego," says Henderson, and the team's rent was slashed by $90 million. In return, the team dropped the 60,000 seat guarantee, which had only two years to run. The end result was that the Chargers essentially were being paid to play in the city.

In that revised contract, the Chargers said they would use their "best efforts" to stay in San Diego. That was "laughable," says Henderson, and it proved to be so.

Attorney Mike Aguirre, who represented Henderson in the mid-1990s, says, "The City of San Diego, the mayor, the city council, the city attorney did not protect the legal rights of the city to keep the Chargers here." Last year, Aguirre brought in James Quinn, a lawyer who had once successfully sued the league on antitrust grounds. He was then representing the players association. He was willing to filed a suit against the Chargers on antitrust grounds. "The city refused to meet with him," says Aguirre.

At least, says Neil deMause of field of schemes.com, "the discovery phase of the [St. Louis] suit promises to be oh, so tasty, as St. Louis tries to dredge up ever last detail of how the relocation decision was made and whether it followed the league's rules." The National Football League makes up its own rules "whenever it feels like it."

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St. Louis Rams stadium. "The discovery phase of the St. Louis suit promises to be oh, so tasty."
St. Louis Rams stadium. "The discovery phase of the St. Louis suit promises to be oh, so tasty."

St. Louis, St. Louis County, and the local Regional Convention and Sports Complex are suing the National Football League, 32 of its teams, and some owners individually over the departure of the Rams to Los Angeles 15 months ago. The plaintiffs seek damages and restitution of profits.

Here are the charges: breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraudulent misrepresentation, and tortious interference with business. The fraudulent misrepresentation charges specifically cite Rams owner Stan Kroenke for saying things like "I'm going to attempt to do everything I can to keep the Rams in St. Louis" — a statement from 2010. In 2014, the executive vice president of the Rams allegedly said that there was a "one-in-a-million chance" that the Rams would leave St. Louis.

Kroenke has already moved the Rams to Los Angeles and played last season in the Coliseum. When his new stadium and real estate complex opens in Inglewood in 2019, the former San Diego Chargers will also occupy it. The Chargers' chief executive, Dean Spanos, kept repeating he would do everything possible to keep the Chargers in San Diego.

The plaintiffs charge in the suit that the City of St. Louis will lose $1.85 million to $3.5 million each year in amusement and ticket tax collections, as well as approximately $7.5 million in property taxes. In total, the city will have lost more than $100 million in net proceeds, according to the suit, says The Guardian.

San Diego lawyer Bruce Henderson sued the city in the mid-1990s, claiming that the team, which was then threatening to move unless it got a rehabbed stadium, was violating its contractual terms with the city. "We were fought tooth and nail by the city, the Union-Tribune, you-name-it," says Henderson. He lost the suit.

Henderson doubts that San Diego could use the same legal strategy as St. Louis. In 2002, the city wanted to get rid of the unpopular 60,000 seat guarantee, which obligated the city to pay when seats were not filled. In return, then-Mayor Dick Murphy and former City Attorney Casey Gwinn "rewrote the contract to give the Chargers the absolute right to leave San Diego," says Henderson, and the team's rent was slashed by $90 million. In return, the team dropped the 60,000 seat guarantee, which had only two years to run. The end result was that the Chargers essentially were being paid to play in the city.

In that revised contract, the Chargers said they would use their "best efforts" to stay in San Diego. That was "laughable," says Henderson, and it proved to be so.

Attorney Mike Aguirre, who represented Henderson in the mid-1990s, says, "The City of San Diego, the mayor, the city council, the city attorney did not protect the legal rights of the city to keep the Chargers here." Last year, Aguirre brought in James Quinn, a lawyer who had once successfully sued the league on antitrust grounds. He was then representing the players association. He was willing to filed a suit against the Chargers on antitrust grounds. "The city refused to meet with him," says Aguirre.

At least, says Neil deMause of field of schemes.com, "the discovery phase of the [St. Louis] suit promises to be oh, so tasty, as St. Louis tries to dredge up ever last detail of how the relocation decision was made and whether it followed the league's rules." The National Football League makes up its own rules "whenever it feels like it."

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Comments
23

The last sentence of the story above could prove to be the undoing of the suit brought by St Louis. Just my opinion.

But considering the franchise values league-wide will probably rise since The League is back in the lucrative L.A. market, the owners might just try to settle the suit. Again, just my opinion.

April 13, 2017

aardvark: The owners have made fantastic amounts of money; the NFL is about as profitable a venture as an entrepreneur can get in. The owners want to keep it that way. They could settle or lose some lawsuits. You just don't know. St. Louis will have to have some very bright lawyers because the NFL and its owners can afford the top ones. The league has already said the suit has no merit. Best, Don Bauder

April 13, 2017

I guess they feel they have to do something. First they should be ashamed they got into this rotten deal (for the taxpayers) with the NFL and secondly the politicians may believe they can appease the angry Rams fans that have lost "their" team. Only the lawyers are going to win in this fight.

April 13, 2017

Ponzi: First, St. Louis nearly gave the city away to get the Rams to move from Los Angeles in the mid-1990s. The stadium was already built. The Rams cut an amazingly one-sided deal in which St. Louis promised to keep the stadium "state of of the art," or among the best in the league.

Of course, that was impossible, because so many new stadiums were built after that. Kroenke, feeling that a deal is a deal, pulled that "state of the art" card out of his deck when he took the team back to L.A. Shockingly, some of Missouri's top politicians OK'd that contract. "I'm from Missouri. Show me." The state got shown how sharks operate. Best, Don Bauder

April 13, 2017

As far as San Diego suing the NFL, Chargers, et. al., we can only ask why. The city will be far better off without the team sucking dollars out of its treasury. The city should say "good riddance", but it cannot do that. The legions of Charger fans who are in agony now that "their team" has decamped want revenge/solace/recompense. So, a suit by the city would be an appropriate step, given the attitude of those residents. But that doesn't mean that it would be pushed hard or at all. File suit, get a camera moment, and then just let it languish until it is forgotten.

April 13, 2017

Visduh: Agreed, but politicians wouldn't dare say a negative word about the Chargers. I have already expressed my view on this matter. I believe the Chargers did not want to win that convadium vote. They wanted to prove to the league that San Diego didn't want them, and they had to absorb some expenses to do so. This explains why Fabiani was so abrasive before the vote. He wanted to antagonize the public, and did a good job doing so.

That doesn't mean that Fabiani is a genius at his craft. He blundered his way along from the time the Chargers hired him as spokesman in the early 2000s. He only did his job well as the vote approached, and his assignment was to get people outraged. He succeeded there. Best, Don Bauder

April 13, 2017

If you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth. The Chargers have repeated over and over to Goodell, other owners, and casual sports writers that they tried everything they could for 15 years to get a stadium built in SD. To those who have followed the story closely, like you, that statement is absurd. But to many others "The Chargers tried everything they could for 15 years to get a stadium built in San Diego" is the truth.

April 14, 2017

ImJustABill: You are absolutely right. Generally, pro sports team owners who want a new stadium threaten to leave town if voters don't come through.Most cities back down in the face of this amoral threats.

If owners want to LEAVE town, they tell their home town that they are doing everything possible to stay, as Kroenke and Spanos did, but that is almost always a lie. Note, too, that the statement is hedged: the owner is doing "everything possible" to stay. This hedge possibly keeps the owner out of court. Best, Don Bauder

April 14, 2017

Should be entertaining (or maybe just disgusting) to see how Fabiani does as the lead spin-meister for Bill "no spin zone" OReilly as he tries to pay off / smear or otherwise dismiss victims of OReilly's un-professional behavior towards women.

April 14, 2017

ImJustABill: Fabiani made his name on a sex case: Bill Clinton's. This is a re-run. Best, Don Bauder

April 14, 2017

Don: Of course the Chargers didn't want to win the convadium vote. It was an ill-conceived plan from the beginning--which made it even easier to go down to defeat. But if the league had really studied that plan, they would have seen the idiocy of it. Well, MAYBE they would have seen that.

In a twisted way, I would have liked to have seen Measure C pass, just to watch Spanos try and push as much of the stadium costs into the costs for the convention center annex (as he called it).

April 14, 2017

Aardvark: Oh yes, I commented at the time that the Chargers would try to pretend that the bulk of the costs were for the convadium, not for the stadium. Maybe San Diegans were wise to that, and other dubious wrinkles.

I don't see why you wanted the measure to pass. Then Spanos could have pulled a switcheroo and decided to stay in the San Diego market. The L.A. market has so much more potential -- maybe. We'll see. Best, Don Bauder

April 14, 2017

Don: I said "in a twisted way", I wanted it to pass. I think the only reason Spanos tied a stadium to a convadium thingy was he thought there would be ways to pawn off stadium costs as convadium costs--thereby keeping even more money in his pocket. Realistically, I didn't want it to pass, and voted against it.

April 14, 2017

aardvark: Good. I misinterpreted your remark. Spanos spent a lot of money on an election that he wanted to lose. But if it had not appeared that he was 100% behind the convadium, the NFL owners may not have given him permission to move.

Los Angeles is a very rich market. But Kroenke is a bully and doesn't like Spanos. Yet here they are, partners of a sort. Let's see what happens. Best, Don Bauder

April 14, 2017

I think the NFL's ridiculous anti-trust exemption needs to be revoked by Congress for real change to happen.

April 14, 2017

ImJustABill: Of course the exemption should be revoked. It shows how powerful the NFL is -- particularly when it is manipulating Congress. Best, Don Bauder

April 14, 2017

Didn't know it was the mayor's job to hold up a finger and tell us which way the wind is blowing. Should take the wind out of his sails/sales and make him gone with the wind.

April 14, 2017

shirleyberan: But he has a lot of big bucks pleading for corporate welfare behind him. Best, Don Bauder

April 14, 2017

BLOG MONITOR: Please remove post by Sajid Khan. It is an ad. Best, Don Bauder

April 14, 2017

Phillip Franklin: Use of the unfair competition laws could be helpful in a suit against the NFL. Best, Don Bauder

April 15, 2017

SD City officials have no guts and no fight. They should be suing the NFL on Antitrust grounds among other things. Can fans and/or season ticket holders sue if the City and County just pull their roll over and play dead acts?!

Al Davis made a pile of money suing the NFL on Antitrust grounds if I remember correctly. Top lawyers or not, the NFL does not do so well in Court when challenged by formidable opponents..

St. Louis could end up getting a big settlement and an NFL expansion franchise. St. Louis and the State of Missouri approved a new NFL stadium with massive public subsidies. They met all the demands that the NFL, the Rams and Kroneke put out there. And, Kroneke, the NFL etc...still stiffed them.

San Diego has the weakest, most toothless "leadership" of just about any city.

April 18, 2017

SportsFan0000: It would be easy to sue the NFL and its individual owners, particularly Dean Spanos, but it wouldn't be easy to win the suit. Best, Don Bauder

April 18, 2017

That depends on who they hire as lawyers...Get some hungry, young lawyers wanting to make a name for themselves with enough successful experience and they could just win and blow the caps on the NFL corporate welfare scheme.

May 1, 2017

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