Attorneys argue Rams relocation lawsuit in St. Louis

There was a courtroom showdown in downtown St. Louis Friday over the city’s lawsuit against the Rams and the NFL over the teams move out of St. Louis in 2016.

Attorneys from Chicago and Washington, D.C. argued for the NFL and the Rams. They told St. Louis City Circuit Judge Christopher McGraugh that St. Louis leaders essentially agreed to the terms of Rams owner Stan Kroenke possibly returning the team to Los Angeles one day when they signed the relocation agreement and 1995 dome lease that brought the team to St. Louis in the first place.

They asked the judge for three things:

1. Allow Kroenke to resolve any outstanding issues via arbitration as stipulated in earlier agreements
2. Remove the other team owners as defendants
3. Throw out the case entirely

“Under both the relocation agreement and the lease, this provides the entire agreement between the parties,” said attorney Andrew Kassof of Chicago.

“They (STL) didn’t pick a few clubs in the NFL. They sued all 32 of the teams and the NFL; it’s totally unnecessary,” said attorney John Hall of Washington, D.C.

Attorneys for St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority (the stadium authority) argued the other NFL owners were complicit, urging St. Louis to forge ahead with plans to build a new stadium.

“I think they’re making a really good effort. Whether they can bring it across the finish line remains to be seen,” New York Giants owner John Mara told Fox 2 in December of 2015, the month before owners voted to allow the Rams to move out of St. Louis.

“The plaintiffs spoke with the owners … the owners spoke back to us here in Missouri saying, ‘keep going. You’re doing a great job,’” said Christropher Bauman, an attorney for St. Louis.

Attorneys for St. louis also argued earlier agreements with the Rams only applied to the dome lease and the relocation to St. Louis. They told the judge that after the Rams left St. louis, team officials publicly admitted to plotting to leave as far back as 2011. They added that the owners ignored their own relocation guidelines.

Attorneys for the league argued those guidelines were not a binding contract with the cities where the teams play.

“If you look at what the guidelines really are, they are just that: guidelines,” argued attorney Bejamin Razi of Washington, D.C.

“(Rams C.O.O.) Kevin Demoff (in 2014) said, ‘Stan Kroenke’s not looking for land for stadiums,’ when Stan Kroenke was and Kevin Demoff knew he that he was,” Bauman said.

“In 2011 the rams had decided to move … of course we have a factual basis for that allegation which is, Jeff Fisher (former Rams head coach) said so,” said James Bennett, an attorney for St. Louis.

The suit asks for unspecified damages but they would be at least in the tens of millions of dollars for nearly $17 million spent on the stadium effort plus lost revenues since the team left and with punitive damages.

McGraugh expects to rule by the end of the year.