Making the Case for an NFL Investigation into Stan Kroenke's Tanking
The NFL should investigate Stan Kroenke’s ownership of the Los Angeles Rams from 2010 to 2015 while they were still in St. Louis. He used his right of first refusal to buy the Rams outright from the late owner’s, Georgia Frontierre, kids. The right of first refusal allows the minority stakeholder to purchase the part of the business they do not already own after another potential buyer submits a bid for the business. Here, Stan Kroenke waited to exercise this right to buy the remaining sixty percent after Shad Khan submitted a bid for the Rams in 2010. Khan got his wish later after he bought the Jacksonville Jaguars and became their owner. In the six years the Rams were in St. Louis under Stan Kroenke, their records were 7-9, 2-14, 7-8-1, 6-10, and 7-9 respectively. This leads to a 29-50-1 record in St. Louis. They failed to make the playoffs under Kroenke’s ownership.
In Los Angeles, omitting the first season where the Rams fired Jeff Fisher and finished 4-12, the Rams have a 55-26 record in the regular season. In the postseason, the Rams have appeared in two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl LVI and losing Super Bowl LIII, and have a 7-3 record in the postseason. This rapid turnaround has led to speculation, and the thought that the Rams lost on purpose from 2010-2015 has gained traction, according to Peter King of Pro Football Focus and Randy Karraker of 101ESPN. Stan Kroenke allowed for draft picks to be used for busts, such as left tackle Greg Robinson who dealt with injuries and legal issues, and injury-proned quarterback Sam Bradford. They signed washed-up free agents, such as Cadillac Williams, Danario Alexander, Jake Long, and among others.
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, the Rams may not have draft picks, but they acquired free agents, such as Odell Beckham Jr., Von Miller, and they traded for Matthew Stafford, Jalen Ramsey, among other stars. They home grew wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and surrounded the players with a great and innovative offensive-minded coach in Sean McVay, the youngest Super Bowl winning coach at 36.
In St. Louis, the major shakeup was hiring Jeff Fisher as their head coach in 2012. Fisher has appeared on several shows and told them he knew the Rams’ desire was to relocate to Los Angeles, and that was the main reason why he was hired. He helped relocate the Houston Oilers to Nashville, where they were rebranded as the Tennessee Titans. Ironically, Fisher’s Titans lost to recently inducted Hall of Fame coach Dick Vermeil’s St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Stan Kroenke and Kevin Demoff, Kroenke’s right-hand man and the Rams’ Chief Operating Officer, assured St. Louisans in interviews from 2010-2015 that Stan had every intention to keep the Rams in St. Louis. Kroenke went on record, saying he’s a Missourian and he realizes how important this team is to St. Louis. When news leaked in 2014 that Kroenke bought the land that became SOFI Stadium, Demoff went through interviews saying the land was not big enough for a football stadium.
However, Kroenke did everything possible to make sure the Rams lost to speed up the relocation to Los Angeles. The other argument is that St. Louis would not pay for the $700 million in upgrades the arbitrator found in Kroenke’s favor for the Dome at America’s Center, and he had the option to leave after finding the Dome was not in the top-tier of NFL stadiums due to the top-tier clause in their lease with the St. Louis Regional Stadium Authority. Kroenke made sure fans would not show up to the games by isolating himself, and making sure the Rams were “competitive” to hide the fact he packed his bags for Los Angeles.
An example is the plaintiff’s argument in the recently settled lawsuit between the Regional Stadium Authority, St. Louis, and the Convention and Visitors Commission against the Rams and the NFL and its thirty-two clubs. In 2014, after realizing Sam Bradford tore his ACL in a preseason game, Kevin Demoff flew out to the Hollywood Park site in Inglewood, California to see the land Stan Kroenke purchased for his SOFI Stadium project. Kevin Demoff was impressed, and they were determined to leave St. Louis as soon as the year to year option on the lease became available.
Another example is Kevin Demoff’s quote after the Rams went on a losing streak to remove themselves from the playoff hunt in 2015. Rams Fans United reported that when Kevin Demoff was asked about the relocation process and filing for it; he responded with this quote: “… thankfully or not thankfully we went on a four game losing streak in November . . . .” He is happy about a four game losing streak so they have more proof to show St. Louis is not a viable market for a football team, and to get a jump on how they are going to plan their meeting to the league’s Los Angeles Committee on why the Rams should be allowed to relocate to Los Angeles.
The salt in the wound, as reported by Randy Karraker, was the Adios Mother F*s email to St. Louis fans, season ticket holders & business partners that was written in the fall of 2015. They “professed” sorrow about leaving, when in fact it was written with hate and disdain. The relocation application ripped St. Louis to the league/owners.
Karraker reported that the franchise was trying to lose from 2010-2015. For 10 straight years, the Rams had been under .500, first in St. Louis and then in Los Angeles. Kroenke registered the Rams as a California company the same day he was approved as their owner in August of 2010. It was obvious what he was trying to do, but he did a great job of hiding it, there is speculation whether he paid Fisher to lose games, like the way Dolphins owner Stephen Ross paid Brian Flores $100,000 for every loss in 2019 to have a better draft selection in 2020.
The only difference is Kroenke did not get caught due to the NFL wanting to soak up the revenue from Los Angeles, and Kroenke privately funded SOFI Stadium, which cost $5 billion. St. Louis, when they settled with the NFL, received $790 million in a settlement, and roughly $530 million after attorney fees. This rapid turnaround and the cherry on top, the Super Bowl title, leads to belief Stan Kroenke lost on purpose in St. Louis so the Rams could move to Los Angeles quicker.
Alex Patterson is a 3L at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. He played football for seventeen years as an offensive and defensive lineman. He graduated from Lindenwood University-Belleville in 2018 with a Bachelor's in Sports Management. He can be followed on Twitter @alpatt71.