News that the NFL’s owners approved a plan to move the St. Louis Rams back to Los Angeles next season is causing excitement in California — and bitter dismay in St. Louis, where fans and officials alike say they feel betrayed.
As Laura reported for the Two-Way last night, the NFL endorsed Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s proposal to build a $1.86 billion stadium in Inglewood, a suburb of Los Angeles. It also gave the San Diego Chargers an option to share the facility.
In response, St. Louis fans vented their sadness and anger, mixed with appreciation for the franchise that won a Super Bowl in 2000. One very conspicuous message came from Andy Cohen, a St. Louis native who hosts the talk show Watch What Happens Live on the Bravo network.
“I can’t forgive this,” Cohen said, in a segment in which he noted that St. Louis had recently topped The Wall Street Journal’s list of America’s top sports cities.
Addressing Kroenke through the camera, Cohen said, “as a proud St. Louisan, I want to give you something on behalf of my hometown.” He proceeded to make a rude gesture with both hands, saying, “That’s for you, buddy.”
When news of the move emerged during Tuesday night’s St. Louis Blues NHL game, fans inside Scottrade Center took up a loud chant to air their disdain for Kroenke.
The Rams’ exit is particularly galling for some in St. Louis because officials had offered a deal to build a $1.1 billion riverfront stadium — only to learn last week that Kroenke had sharply criticized the city in his NFL application to move the franchise, calling St. Louis a “struggling” place where the population isn’t projected to grow.
“No NFL club would be interested” in the city’s plan for a new stadium, the application said, adding later, “The public contribution is only $355 million.”
Those and other observations in the document set off a wave of negative reaction in St. Louis. Local podcast host Kelly Manno launched a plan to send $250 worth of animal excrement to Kroenke — a plan that has now apparently been carried out, after Manno said her public financing goal was surpassed in just six hours. She used a Web service — I Poop You — to send the package, as the Riverfront Times reports.
Other fans took a more personal route, dropping off jerseys and other team memorabilia at Rams Park. Local TV 2 Now reports that “fans, or former fans, are purposely driving past the park to throw out unwanted jerseys and team gear.”
Saying that the NFL had ignored the truth about his city as well as fans “who supported the team through far more downs than ups,” St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay says, “St. Louis is great place to live and build a business — with or without NFL football.”
Collecting other reactions Wednesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch included several tweets from fans who cited kids’ disappointment. One photo showed a child opening a Christmas present containing a Rams jersey.
Breakups between a pro sports franchise and a host city are rarely amicable. For many in LA, there were hard feelings when the Rams left after the 1994 season. And in that city today, the mood for many enduring Rams fans is one of jubilation.
A posting about the move on the Los Angeles Times Facebook page has drawn enthusiastic responses, with some fans welcoming the return of rivalries such as the 49ers-Rams. But one of the highest-ranked comments read, “LOS ANGELES RAIDERS… nobody wants the rams only those yellow journalism workers at the LA times.”
LA Weekly celebrated the decision by exclaiming, “NFL Football Returns To L.A.!”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti welcomed the move by saying, “with the NFL returning home, Los Angeles cements itself as the epicenter of the sports world.”
Fans in St. Louis will likely take scant solace in the fact that they’re not the only losers in this deal. NFL.com’s Judy Battista writes that Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis, who presented a rival plan to share a stadium in LA, were also spurned:
“They, alone on that stage, knew what St. Louis Rams fans were feeling Tuesday night, because they had just endured a day in which the people they thought would have their backs had instead rejected them — dramatically, stunningly, but soundly.”
Battista also notes that when the NFL’s team owners voted on the proposals, they did so by secret ballot. The final tally was 30-2 in favor of Kroenke’s plan.
Current and former Rams players had a range of reactions to the deal. Kurt Warner, quarterback of the Super Bowl-winning team, told “all the awesome St. Louis Rams fans” that he’ll never forget them.
Former running back Eric Dickerson, who played for the Los Angeles Rams in the 1980s, tweeted, “Welcome home! #LARams2016.”
Under the headline “It’s over,” St. Louis Public Radio reports, “The moving trucks lining up at Rams’ Park will mark the second time since 1988 that an NFL squad departed from the Gateway City. It’s unclear whether the city will get another chance at hosting that professional sport.”