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."