Column by Mark McFarland, Assistant Sports Editor
The NFL and the now Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke decided last week to move the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles. A bigger and better market happened to be one of the main reasons for the move.
That same “bigger and better” of Los Angeles in 1994 had more than 80 percent of the stadium empty for its last season opener. A “bigger and better” market where only 100 fans showed up to the teams first official press conference since having the team back. In 1995, the press conference in St. Louis had more than 3,500 fans to welcome the Rams.
Kroenke, a billionaire, married into the Walton family, creators of Walmart and Sam’s Club, and is set for life. He has not needed to work for anything since being married, yet it never seems to be enough. Kroenke has enough money that he either owns or partially owns the Los Angeles Rams, Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rapids and Arsenal Football Club in England. This seems to be a bit excessive for someone who is already rich.
In 1995, Kroenke helped bring the Rams from Los Angeles to St. Louis, saying “St. Louis deserves a football team,” leading the fans to believe that St. Louis would have them forever. He then took over as the sole owner of the Rams in 2010, after Georgia Frontiere died in 2008. Six years later he moved the Rams back to Los Angeles, the city the Rams left to go 21 years earlier.
Sports fans in St. Louis are furious. Furious would be an understatement-sports fans in St. Louis are livid. Days after the news, the St. Louis Blues arena erupted in a “Kroenke sucks” chant. All season long Rams fans held signs at home and at road games begging and pleading for the NFL and Kroenke to have a heart and stop worrying about money and keep the team where it needs to be.
Kroenke not only ripped Rams fan in his proposal to the NFL, but the city of St. Louis. The entire city that has been there and supported a team that has quite frankly sucked for most of its 21 years in the city. Back in the day, even the Rams enjoyed success in St. Louis. The Greatest Show on Turf had players like Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Marshall Faulk and Orlando Pace, plus plenty more. They won two NFC championships and a Super Bowl in 2000. Kroenke then has the guts to say, “St. Louis can’t support three professional teams,” and “Economically St. Louis is hurting.” How can he say they can’t support three teams? The city was able to do it for 21 years. The St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Blues all would partner with the Rams and all three teams would go out in the community to make St. Louis better. In fact, St. Louis is actually not hurting as bad as Kroenke makes it sound. In a letter to the NFL, St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay displayed his frustrations with the decision and wrote, “St. Louis hosts 19 Fortune 500 companies’ headquarters here.” That’s right, there are 19 of some of the best and biggest companies in the United States that want their headquarters in St. Louis. Why would they want them in a city that is hurting economically?
Back to Kroenke. Remember when he said “St. Louis deserves football?” In the official press conference after the deal was made to move the team to Los Angeles, he said the Rams organization and he himself had been working on a plan to move to Los Angeles since 2002. That is just appalling to people in St. Louis. St. Louisans might not have gone to every home game or a lot of home games but most St. Louis TVs were tuned to the Rams almost every Sunday to watch their team lose yet another game. The passion and drive the fans have or had is almost matched by other big market teams.
Many people in St. Louis are so outraged with Kroenke and the NFL that some are saying they will not give another penny to the NFL, period. Many are saying they are done shopping at Walmart. Anger and disappointment are words that describe some fans in St. Louis, but there are stronger words to describe the majority of Rams fans. Many have grown up with season tickets in their families, going to games almost every Sunday. Others grew up going to the Edward Jones Dome to try and buy tickets the day of the game.
St. Louis wants the NFL to know, and so does Mayor Slay, that the city does not want another team from the NFL in St. Louis. The city feels abandoned and misled. Trying to make money is one thing, but being greedy when an organization like the NFL already has plenty of money is sad and quite frankly something the city does not want to support. The tears that have been shed in the last week in St. Louis are not just tears of sadness, but tears of pure outrage. Kroenke is not welcome in St. Louis, and if he does decide to visit he will most likely do it with a full security detail because of the way he treated the beautiful city.