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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Don't Let The Door Hit You In The Kroenke On The Way Out

On September 7, 2014, I wrote a column called "Los Angeles, You Can Have The Rams," in which I listed the reasons why I was fed up with this sub-par team and its arrogant owner. Now the NFL has given the Rams permission to leave St. Louis and return to the west coast for next season and build a new stadium complex in the LA suburb of Inglewood.

Good riddance.

At the press conference announcing the move last night, owner Stan Kroenke called it "bittersweet." How was it bitter for him? He bought the Inglewood property two years ago, declared he was moving the team one year ago, and now, as billionaires always do, he has gotten his way. The people who should feel bitter are my fellow St. Louisans, who were lied to by Kroenke and his NFL cronies who pretended there was a chance the Rams might stay here if the region built them a new stadium.

That was never going to happen, and I'm glad it didn't. I understand that this is purely a business decision, but I'm sick of billionaire sports owners blackmailing municipalities into giving them corporate welfare under the threat of picking up their ball and leaving town. It's the same with tax breaks like TIFs for developers (including Kroenke). Far too many cities have allowed themselves to pay this ransom in order to keep teams -- a deal that never works out for the region, but always puts more dollars in the owners' pockets.

We also lost more than $14 million in taxpayer dollars spent by the task force that wasted time and money trying to come up with a new stadium plan that would please Kroenke. If Kroenke really wanted to keep the Rams in St. Louis, he wouldn't have made the city jump through all those hoops -- he would have paid for a new stadium himself, as he'll do in Inglewood. In other words, it wasn't a matter of funding. It was a matter of a billionaire who never had any other intention than moving to the nation's second-largest media market.

Let's cut short right now the speculation on whether the NFL will give St. Louis another team. Not going to happen. Fool me twice, shame on me, as the expression goes, and we shouldn't even consider asking such a thing of a league that has allowed the Cardinals to move to Arizona and the Rams to return to California.

Face it, St. Louis, your football girlfriend doesn't love you, and hasn't for a long time (at least back to 2010, when Kroenke acquired full ownership of the Rams). Incidentally, we're not the only town to suffer with a losing franchise under Kroenke's ownership -- ask fans of the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche, or the Arsenal soccer team.

So, Los Angeles, I hope you enjoy watching a bad football team every Sunday, because that's what you'll have on your local Fox station when it shows every Rams game. We, on the other hand, will finally be able to get better NFL games broadcast -- unless KTVI makes the mistake of carrying Los Angeles Rams games (or we're deemed to be in the Chicago Bears region and forced to watch them). Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing the Chiefs more often. At least they make the playoffs.

Then there's this message to the Rams and the NFL from LA Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke:

First, we didn't ask you to come back. Oh, we may have whined occasionally during Super Bowl weeks, but we didn't hold giant rallies or send emotional letters or really miss you that much. We play fantasy football, we watch DirecTV, we drive to Las Vegas for a three-team parlay. We've had our fill of the NFL without actually having a team.

Live football? We've fallen in love all over again with the pro-style programs at USC and UCLA, just check attendance figures.

Sundays? We've done just fine watching the Dodgers on Sunday afternoons in the fall and the Lakers on Sunday nights in the winter.

Second, we're not paying for you to come back. Every place else you've gone, the grateful locals have slipped you a few bucks to show up, but not here, not even close, which is probably why it took 21 years for you to return.

We didn't pry open civic pocketbooks or agree to any special taxes like some of those other smaller towns. We're sophisticated enough to understand that you're not a hospital or firehouse, that billionaires shouldn't need handouts to bankroll their pigskin parties.

So understand first that you're here because you want to be here and because you think you can make money here, not because anybody was dying to see you again. Consider yourself lucky to be back on our turf. And while you're here, you'll have to play by our three simple rules:

You must win. You must entertain. You must do both with the sort of decency and integrity that makes us feel comfortable enduring long lines of traffic, long lines at bathrooms, and mosh pits in parking lots for a chance to watch you play.
Previously on Harris Online...