The Rams could be only three seasons away from having the ability to break their lease at the Edward Jones Dome and return to L.A. Or anywhere else.
And so the current contractual dance between St. Louis and its football team, which is unfolding with the Rams donning their best poker face and necessarily displaying ambivalence to the fan base, is creating concern among the folks who want the team to stick around.
But COO Kevin Demoff doesn’t think fans should be worried.
“I’m amazed that we are years removed from even having a lease that goes year to year yet there is more angst in St. Louis than there is currently in San Diego or Oakland where the lease issues are more pressing,” Demoff said during Friday’s chat conducted via the team’s official website. “There is more angst in St. Louis than there was in Minnesota and the Vikings lease was year to year. The reasoning is simple — we’ve been burned before and now there is another lease issue to be resolved. Fans don’t deserve to have this hanging over there [sic] head which is why we are excited about our proposal for a first tier facility which will give St. Louis a great NFL stadium. Then we can finally put the lease/stadium/team moving discussions to bed and focus on improving this football team and building the winner that St. Louis deserves.”
Demoff’s explanation adroitly distorts the reality. The Rams made a “proposal” for a first-tier upgrade that would cost $700 million without committing a penny toward paying for it, and the Convention and Visitors Commission wisely rejected it. Eventually, three arbitrators will fashion a plan for getting the Edward Jones Dome into the top eight facilities in the league. And if the CVC opts not to proceed, the Rams will have the ability to leave after the 2014 season.
Against those basic facts, the Rams aren’t saying that they’re staying. Instead, the team (through Demoff) has reacted to the concern by explaining that the fans shouldn’t be concerned.
But they should be. Given the ongoing absence of a clear sense that the Rams are committed to staying, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be.
Demoff’s comments aren’t designed to alleviate those concerns. They’re intended to help lay the foundation for placing blame on St. Louis if the Rams end up leaving. Which in turn puts more pressure on St. Louis to give the Rams their first-tier stadium.
The Rams, put simply, are driving a hard bargain. Taking real steps to make the fans not worry about the team leaving makes it impossible to drive the hardest bargain possible.
And that’s fine. But the Rams shouldn’t act surprised that the fans are worried when the Rams have given them zero reasons not to.