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Who is Paying St. Louis the $790 Million Settlement Fee: The NFL or Stan Kroenke?

Daniel Kaplan from The Athletic reports the NFL will vote Tuesday on the person or people responsible for paying St. Louis the $790 million settlement fee. This settlement fee stemmed from the NFL not following its own relocation guidelines when the Rams applied for relocation in 2015. The Rams relocated to Los Angeles in 2016, but this relocation did not technically “occur” in 2016. It happened in 2013.

In 2013, then St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams owner Stan Kroenke showed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and other NFL owners the land he purchased in Inglewood, California. This land is the current land SOFI Stadium and its surrounding area sits in Hollywood Park. The relocation occurred in 2013 because the land was big enough for an NFL stadium, television studios, and more. Stan Kroenke is married to Anne Walton, a Walmart heiress, and he is personally worth around $7 billion. Goodell and the owners knew their best chance for the league to move back to the second-largest market in the nation was through Stan Kroenke and the Rams. Kroenke’s and the NFL’s plan to Los Angeles was set in motion.

The Rams filed their articles of incorporation as a California company in 2014, while they were still located in St. Louis. This was done after the Rams won an arbitration hearing against St. Louis about which entity had the better stadium plan to renovate the then-named Edward Jones Dome. The “St. Louis” Rams still “competed” to 7-9 seasons in 2014 and 2015 before the relocation meeting occurred in Houston on January 12th, 2016. The owners voted 30-2 in Kroenke’s favor over another competing Los Angeles project in Carson, California brought forth by the then-San Diego Chargers and then-Oakland Raiders ownership groups.

Stan Kroenke agreed to cover all legal “costs” that would incur from this relocation. Kroenke argues this only covers the legal fees, and every other owner has to pay their share for the $790 million settlement fee. Other owners, such as John Mara Jr., argue they would not have voted for Kroenke to leave St. Louis had they known this was the case. The NFL assessed a $7.5 million fee against each club in December for partial payment for the settlement fee. Earlier this year, Goodell created a five-member ad hoc committee to make a recommendation to him on who has to pay the settlement fee. This committee lost members, but it still stands.

NFL owners disagreed with the NFL’s plan to assess a $7.5 million fee against them because this matter has not been determined yet. The meeting next Tuesday is scheduled to be in New York. Stan Kroenke can still personally sue Goodell and the finance committee, should it be determined that he is the sole person to pay the settlement fee.

This meeting will likely turn owners against each other as it did last December after they found out about the indemnification clause Kroenke had in the relocation. The owners do not like to lose money, and if each owner has to fund part of their wealth for the settlement fee, this will not sit well with them.

St. Louis has yet to announce how they are going to split the settlement money among the parties in the lawsuit, the city, the county, and the Regional and Stadium Authority. The good news for St. Louis is the city is receiving an Xtreme Football League (XFL) franchise, that will play its games at the Dome at America’s Center, marking football’s second return to St. Louis. The first return was the COVID-19 abbreviated return of the Xtreme Football League (XFL).

This meeting will divide the owners into whether they are going to pay the settlement fee and turn on Stan Kroenke and Jerry Jones, the project’s voice, for forcing them into this situation, or whether they will rejoice in hearing that Kroenke has to fund the entire $790 million settlement fee by himself. If this happens, expect him to sue the NFL for misconstruing the word “costs” and turning on the word’s ambiguity.

Alex Patterson is a Thomas M. Cooley Law School graduate and works for Kerley and Talken PC as a paralegal. 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.

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