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Editorial: Kroenke twists in the wind as St. Louis' case against the NFL heats up

From the Essential reading: St. Louis’ lawsuit against the Los Angeles Rams, NFL owners series
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Ever since Rams owner Stan Kroenke decided to publicly trash St. Louis as he moved his team to Los Angeles in 2016, the billionaire has been the No. 1 person St. Louisans love to hate. (Think Stan Kroenke urinal cakes.) It appears some NFL team owners are starting to agree with that sentiment, especially as a costly court battle over Kroenke’s move is forcing them to reveal financial information they’d really prefer not to be made public.

For St. Louisans, the infighting among this once tightly unified band of billionaire brothers is something to savor. Kroenke is clearly squirming under the pressure as lawyers representing the city, county and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority press their well-justified demands for billions of dollars in compensation for the injustices Kroenke and the NFL inflicted.

When the plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in 2017, the prospects for success seemed exceedingly bleak: a small team of local lawyers challenging the behemoth National Football League and a legal fortress backed by some of the country’s richest men. But at every key turn in the case, St. Louis Circuit Judge Christopher McGraugh has rejected bids by the NFL and owners to have the case thrown out or moved to another venue. Perhaps most importantly, he upheld the plaintiffs’ demand for access to team owners’ financial information. Some continue to object and delay, testing the court’s patience.

The owners in question are part of the league’s Los Angeles committee who engineered the move despite claiming to give good-faith consideration of St. Louis’ efforts to keep the Rams here by mustering financial support and securing plans to construct an expensive new stadium.

Juicy as the plaintiffs’ court victories have been, the best might be yet to come. A very embarrassing court trial could start in January just as Kroenke prepares to host the Super Bowl in his expensive new Los Angeles-area stadium. McGraugh has set Dec. 3 as the deadline for owners to hand over their financial information. Mediation could start this week to reach a settlement before this case draws national headlines away from the Super Bowl. The owners appear to be losing patience and reportedly are putting extra pressure on Kroenke to make this nightmare go away.

What started out as a Hail Mary bid by the plaintiffs to recover about $18 million in costs to keep the Rams here could turn into a major financial windfall for the region, even after the lawyers take their cut.

Pick your metaphor: St. Louis is the mouse that roared, the little engine that could. The NFL is quaking, and deservedly so for the ways the owners violated the public’s trust in their backroom decision to approve the Rams’ move regardless of whatever offer St. Louis put on the table. And the trash-talking Kroenke may be finally getting his comeuppance.


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