Billionaires probably like to save a buck as much as dollarinaires, but at this week’s NFL owners meeting, Stan Kroenke was the cause of tension over who was responsible for millions of bucks in legal fees over the ongoing relocation lawsuit with the city of St. Louis. According to a report by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Rams owner was asked to leave a meeting on Tuesday as the other 31 teams and a group of senior NFL executives debated whether it was okay for Kroenke to be challenging an agreement he made in 2016 to pay for the league’s legal fees in the suit.
Kroenke’s lawyers reportedly notified the league that he no longer believes he is responsible to pay the millions in legal fees as he has been doing, despite signing an indemnification agreement in 2016 that Giants owner John Mara said was the only reason that Rams were approved to move to Los Angeles; prior to the Rams’ approval, owners had approved a Raiders-Chargers stadium project in Carson by a 5-1 vote.
Mara spoke next and said that Kroenke’s change in position was ridiculous and that if Kroenke had not agreed to indemnify the league, the owners wouldn’t have voted for him to move. He said anyone who was in the room in Houston when the vote was taken would know that.
That decision was reportedly brought up again by Raiders owner Mark Davis in Tuesday’s meeting after learning of Kroenke’s intention to stop paying the league’s legal bills. Wickersham notes that Patriots owner Robert Kraft was also upset with Kroenke, while Cowboys owner continued his very public position of supporting Stan Kroenke 100-percent.
In the report, a rare insight into what goes on behind these closed doors, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash also mentioned that Stan Kroenke attempted to settle the lawsuit for “billions of dollars” but that settlement attempts have been unsuccessful. Kroenke is said to have argued against the indemnification agreement because of an e-mail from the competing Carson project to the city of St. Louis that attempted to to show “ all the ways the Rams seemed to be in violation of the league’s relocation policy” that is now serving as a “blueprint” for the lawsuit.
The city of St. Louis is suing the NFL, arguing that the league “broke its own relocation guidelines, misled the public on its plans to leave the city and cost the city millions in revenue.”
Kroenke reportedly also believes that “after building the stadium and agreeing to house the Chargers as a tenant for $1 a year, he shouldn’t be responsible for all legal fees.”
What’s most interesting about this report from the “Los Angeles Rams” perspective is the accusation by Mara that Stan Kroenke basically did whatever he had to do and signed whatever he had to sign just to get the NFL to approve a Rams’ LA relocation over a Raiders’ LA relocation, and now isn’t willing to have the horse meet the cart. Not only that, but that the Raiders owner doesn’t think that’s very cool, even if the Las Vegas location and new stadium both seem to be doing quite well right now.
Despite the millions in legal fees, the league does not appear to be “winning” the case so far, losing motions and being denied a request to have a hearing in the U.S. Supreme Court. Wickersham notes that some teams have “eight figure” bills with the lawsuit, which has also forced many franchises to save and reveal almost a decade of information related to the relocation.
Wickersham said that Kraft spoke “for many in the room” when he said that Kroenke’s position to stop paying the bills was “unfair.”
This doesn’t seem to have an end in close sight, and the ripples of these disagreements could go on forever. But to his credit, Stan Kroenke will long have the Rams in LA.