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NFL

These Freaks Need To Be In The Same Room More Often

Los Angeles Rams team owner Stan Kroenke and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell pose for a picture prior to a game against the Chicago Bears at SoFi Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Inglewood, California.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

There’s a certain class of people who love to go nuts about Succession. It’s an entertaining show, to be fair. Sometimes I see Frank Rich as an executive producer in the opening credits, and briefly wonder who else is laughing at the jokes about nepotism, but that’s a relatively minor complaint. To get back to the point, I don’t think any fictional media will completely capture how stubborn and petty the ludicrously wealthy can be.

At a hotel in New York this week the NFL owners all met in person, for the first time since December 2019, so they could discuss league matters with commissioner Roger Goodell. One topic of discussion was the city of St. Louis suing the league and Rams owner Stan Kroenke for relocating the team to California. The trial is scheduled for January 2022, and it has the NFL sweating. The league has been unsuccessful in killing the lawsuit, but on top of any potential settlement or judgment, it’s pushed some NFL owners to do one thing they absolutely hate doing: open their books.

Kroenke and four other team owners—John Mara of the New York Giants, Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, and Clark Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs—were ordered by St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Christopher McGraugh to share their financials, but they have refused. In response, McGraugh began to fine them for not complying with the court:

Obviously, these guys blow their noses with those amounts. Even so, Kroenke has been footing the bill for their lack of cooperation. That is, until Tuesday’s meeting. Here’s where it gets fun: Kroenke had signed an indemnification agreement to cover the lawsuit’s costs, now in the tens of millions of dollars, because it was his mess and in 2016 the owners had voted 30-2 for his Rams to relocate to Inglewood. But this week, the Rams czar just … didn’t want to pay anymore. This all came from ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, whose article is a really fun read if you like rich people bickering:

Sources told ESPN that Kroenke then stood and told the room that he has invested in the league and done everything that the league has asked him to do. He apologized for the ongoing lawsuit but argued that it wasn’t his fault.

Kroenke took a few questions from the room. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a fierce Kroenke advocate who championed the relocation and helped push it over the finish line during a contentious vote in January 2016, told the room that Kroenke had done a lot for the league.

Then, in an unusual move, Goodell asked Kroenke to leave the room, sources told ESPN. He did.

That’s when Pash told the room that the league was notified by Kroenke’s attorneys that Kroenke is challenging the indemnification agreement that all three teams involved in the L.A. derby in 2016 — the Rams, Chargers and Raiders — signed on the morning of the vote.

The owners in this room have probably betrayed countless people to get to where they are today. Now appreciate how good it feels to witness them realize that there’s nothing stopping any one of them from betraying the others. The reason Wickersham knows about all of this, and the reason we can read it, is because someone in that room leaked, and leaked a lot, judging by the amount of detail. Here’s more from the article:

Mara spoke next and said that Kroenke’s change in position was ridiculous and that if Kroenke had not agreed to indemnify the league, the owners wouldn’t have voted for him to move. He said anyone who was in the room in Houston when the vote was taken would know that.

The sources said Jones argued that he has been dealing with the legal issues, too, and indicated that the problems were not the fault of Kroenke or the league but were because one owner’s deposition was shaky. That owner’s name was not mentioned.

Fantastic. Defector’s Diana Moskovitz looked up the court docket and found that the owners who gave depositions are Jones, Hunt, Mara, Kroenke, Kraft, former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, and Steelers owner Art Rooney II. While it would be poetic if Mark Davis the Backpack Lad had said something admissible in court that could kneecap the NFL, that probably didn’t happen. But someone screwed up!

NFL owners typically stay out of the public eye, beyond an appearance in the stadium suite during a game, and it seems like that’s with good reason. (Jerry Jones is an exception to this but judging from this legal saga, perhaps he shouldn’t be.) Every time an owner opens their mouth, they lose mystique and dignity. Some big oaf like Cal McNair of the Houston Texans talks about the “China virus,” and people in attendance cringe. It’s truly a shame that these awful weirdos only get together once a year to squabble. More, please!

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