The NFL appears to have one major lawsuit on its docket, and two more could soon follow in its wake.
The City of St. Louis and the County of St. Louis have filed a lawsuit against the NFL and each of its 32 franchises claiming that they illegally approved the relocation of the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles in 2016.
The lawsuit, which was filed in St. Louis Circuit Court on Wednesday (and also backed by fellow plaintiffs, the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority), alleged that NFL bylaws were ignored and that the league green-lighted the Rams moving despite failing to “satisfy the obligations imposed by the League’s relocation rules” and the fact that relocation “was not supported by the required statement of reasons or the adopted relocation standards.”
It listed the NFL, all 32 teams and their respective owners, plus the managers of each of the teams’ local facilities as co-defendants and seeks damages and restitution of profits since the move over the past 15 months. The lawsuit claims that the City of St. Louis has lost an estimated $1.85 million to $3.5 million per year in ticket tax revenue, an additional $7.5 million in property tax and $1.4 million in sales tax revenue, as well as “millions” in earning taxes.
The suit alleges that the parties ignored the NFL’s relocation bylaws, which were established in 1984 following a rash of teams relocating and after a court told the league it might want to do so to prevent antitrust liability. In essence, the relocation rules state that teams must work in good faith to try to keep the franchises at home first before seeking to move them elsewhere. They must first satisfy all the relocation requirements and exhaust all opportunities at home first before moving. The suit claims the Rams and owner Stan Kroenke “made false statements regarding the team’s intent to engage in good faith negotiations” with St. Louis.
You can bet the cities of San Diego and Oakland will have their legal teams diving into this lawsuit. We could see two more of them filed locally in those respective cities following the relocation of the Chargers to L.A. in 2016 and the recent approval of the Raiders moving to Las Vegas, perhaps as soon as 2019. It would be more likely to see San Diego file a similar lawsuit sooner — if it chooses to — because of the time elapsed without a team.
However, San Diego and Oakland might each opt to hold off any litigation until they are each sure no other NFL team might come there. After all, St. Louis watched its third NFL franchise leave its city limits — and the second in less than 30 years, with the Cardinals’ move to Arizona and the Rams leaving last year — and almost certainly will never host another NFL team. Right now, San Diego is considered an intriguing possibility to land a team in future relocation, but that could be more than a decade away.