Report: Stan Kroenke May Stop Paying NFL Owners' Legal Expenses in Relocation Lawsuit

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVOctober 27, 2021

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 21:  Owner Stan Kroenke of the Los Angeles Rams talks with Mark Davis of the Las Vegas Raiders before a preseason NFL game at SoFi Stadium on August 21, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke is challenging an indemnification agreement about who would foot the bill for an ongoing lawsuit tied to the franchise's relocation, according to ESPN's Seth Wickersham.

In 2017, the city of St. Louis, St. Louis County in Missouri and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority filed suit against the Rams, alleging the team and the NFL didn't properly honor its obligations ahead of the Rams' move to Los Angeles.

Wickersham reported Kroenke promised "to cover tens of millions of dollars in legal expenses" for other NFL teams but is attempting to walk back that decision.

Regardless of the lawsuit's outcome, it could lay bare the NFL's hidden machinations.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that league officials and team owners would have to turn over cellphone records dating back eight years as part of the suit. In September, the court denied an appeal by the defendants, requiring them to continue disclosing detailed financial information.

Beyond the legal aspects, Wickersham detailed how lingering frustration from a contentious relocation could be exposed.

In 2016, the NFL's committee on Los Angeles voted 5-1 in favor of a plan that would've seen the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders share a stadium in Carson, California. The Rams' plan for a new stadium in Inglewood, California, was approved nonetheless.

Wickersham and colleague Don Van Natta Jr. reported in 2019 on how the topic remained a sore subject, and they detailed the kind of palace intrigue one might expect to see on Succession:

"Discovery turned up a damning email from a Carson project official outlining to St. Louis authorities all the ways the Rams seemed to be in violation of the league's relocation policy, providing a blueprint for the city of St. Louis' lawsuit. The email enraged league and Rams executives and undermined [Chargers owner Dean] Spanos' reputation as the consummate company man, even though he didn't write it."

According to Wickersham, Kroenke "believes that some of the legal issues arise from that email," which is causing him to look differently upon the indemnification agreement.

However, New York Giants co-owner John Mara reportedly reminded team owners that they wouldn't have approved the Rams' relocation without full indemnification.

Wickersham reported that legal fees for some NFL teams have hit eight figures.