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Hochman: Kroenke is a bully, but other owners have final say

Hochman: Kroenke is a bully, but other owners have final say


He’s a bully. Like the old locker-stuffers and mind-manipulators, scheming Stan Kroenke has taken it to another level, for he’s bullying an entire city of sports fans. He’s throwing insults as punches to the face, mentally trying to break us, with his carefully written, 29-page relocation plan, submitted to the NFL, besmirching St. Louis.

The worst part about his seemingly diabolical plan is this, right here. See, he wants columns and radio shows and tweets expressing how much St. Louis loathes him, about how he can’t turn back now and possibly own a St. Louis NFL team. Why does he want this? So the NFL owners will have to second-guess a decision to vote for the Chargers and Raiders to move to LA, with the owners believing that the Rams owner cannot make it work back in St. Louis.

Rich Owner No. 1: “Man, it sure seems pretty logical to move the two California NFL teams, without hopes of a new stadium, into a palatial new stadium in California’s biggest city.”

Rich Owner No 2: “Maybe, sure, but Stan can’t go back to St. Louis!”

Stan Kroenke is calculated in everything he does. So to prove his point that he must flee St. Louis, he took it out on St. Louis, the same fans who filled the dome for all those happy years — and many who still pay hard-earned money to watch that USFL team he puts out there to play against NFL teams.

In the relocation plan, he had the audacity to say that since he became majority owner, “The current Rams ownership’s investment in the on-the-field Rams team has been significant. These investments have resulted in a 52 percent improvement in winning percentage over the five years before Stan Kroenke became the controlling owner.

“Despite these investments and engagements, Rams attendance since 2010 has been well below the league average.”

I would love to meet the first NFL owner or, really, the first human being who isn’t seeing through this (please insert most-insulating noun that we can still use in the newspaper, thank you). Yeah, they spent money on players and even a coach, but the players stunk and the coach never made the playoffs. So this 52 percent improvement took the Rams from really bad to still-pretty-danged-bad.

Kroenke is basically saying: “I can’t believe these penny-pinchers in St. Louis refused to spend money to watch this current losing team; the previous losing team lost way more often!”

Also in the relocation plan, he said that St. Louis can’t support three teams. You know who said St. Louis couldn’t support three teams in the year 2000, just 15 years ago, when the Rams were actually run well and winning? No one. No one said that. And as Forbes pointed out, the strategic dollar figures he quoted, used to prove St. Louis couldn’t support three teams, were similar to the figures of the city of Pittsburgh. And Pittsburgh seems to be doing OK with its three teams.

To cite the Rams’ potential popularity in Los Angeles, one of the pollsters he used was … a dude on Twitter. Seriously. The relocation plan stated: “A December 2015 poll on ESPN LA showed 51% of fans supporting the return of the Rams, as compared with 32% for the Raiders and 17% for the Chargers. Polling throughout the relocation process has consistently shown the Rams as a single team have more fan support than the Chargers and Raiders combined.”

That “poll” was done by an ESPN LA writer on Twitter. In the aforementioned December 2015, Arash Markazi asked on Twitter: “Which NFL team do you most want to see move to Los Angeles?” He indeed got the 51-32-17 percentage results. How many people responded? It was 2,238. Scientific and in-depth, indeed.

And the line that rattled much of St. Louis was the bold claim that “Any NFL Club that signs on to this proposal in St. Louis will be well on the road to financial ruin, and the League will be harmed.”

Can you elaborate, please? That’s a heck of a proclamation and prediction.

What we know is his team will receive $400 million in public funding (as Alderwoman Sharon Tyus said: “We’re like at the strip club, and the stripper is throwing the money back at us!”). There will be a rebated five-percent amusement tax, saving the team a few million. And a naming rights deal that would average $8 million annually for two decades. And that excess fans are likely to come to see the new stadium, and with a watchable product, that could compensate for some stadium cost.

Yes, there have been reports that show the fallacies of publicly financed stadiums over the years. Nothing is guaranteed here. But it’s not like the city is offering to build, I don’t know, the current Oakland stadium or San Diego stadium (those toilet bowls where the Raiders and Chargers would thus continue to play if the Rams move to LA).

The past couple of days have been about responding to the bullying, about fighting back with the little power St. Louisans have, sadly, in regard to the fate of their football team.

But in the coming days, we’ll have to regroup and re-evaluate the NFL’s mindset and motives, first out of the New York meetings and then the all-owner Houston meetings, Jan. 12-13.

Kroenke is ruthless — he wants his Rams in LA, and it doesn’t matter who he has to punch to get there.

But how much does the league really care about feelings? My guess is not much, and we’ll find out. By all that I mean the Oakland and San Diego situations are dire, so choosing those teams to move to LA would solve those two problems. And then the Rams would have to go back to St. Louis, either to a new stadium or year-to-year at the dome, while Kroenke would continue to look to move. But will the voting owners be so fearful about the frayed relationship in St. Louis, that it would make them overlook the logic of the Carson project?

It all makes me wonder if there’s another outcome we’re overlooking, be it involving expansion teams, or a Chargers-Rams forced marriage, or Kroenke building his own stadium here, in the city that hates him so, while hiring the best PR firm a billion can buy.

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