It doesn’t take a smoking gun to cause a reasonable person to conclude that the Rams and the NFL lied repeatedly about the planned relocation from St. Louis to Los Angeles. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch found one anyone.
Or more than one.
The publication fought to get access to court exhibits that the league wanted to expunge. It’s obvious why the league didn’t want these documents to see the light of day. They expose that the league and its teams lie when they think need to. It’s not personal, it’s just business.
For example, the exhibits obtained by the Post-Dispatch confirm that the Rams and the league knew that owner Stan Kroenke purchased the Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood with the specific plan to build a stadium there. He wanted to hide that information. The NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell participated in the lie.
It was strategic, but it was still a lie. Which confirms that they indeed will lie whenever they think it meshes with their broader objectives.
The most clear example comes from the lies told by Goodell at his pre-Super Bowl press conference in early 2014. The Rams crafted, with the help of the league office, a false narrative regarding the property Kroenke had purchased. And Goodell helped affirmatively push that false narrative.
“We’re going to try very hard to stay under the radar screen and nobody will know we bought it,” Kroenke told Goodell after buying the land in Inglewood. “We’ll stay hidden, which is what we want, for as long as we can.”
Per the report, the Rams and the league office collaborated at least twice on crafting public statements aimed at concealing Kroenke’s intentions. The goal was obvious. In March 2014, Kroenke and his partner in the land deal in Inglewood discussed the goal of keeping the plan to move the Rams there secret in order “to maximize 2014 ticket sales by avoiding any unnecessary publicity about the possible departure of the Rams.”
For its part, the league office deliberately tried to play dumb about Kroene’s plan. Former NFL executive Eric Grubman, for example, argued against asking Kroenke directly about his plans for the property. “If we do, it is harder to play dunce,” Grubman wrote in an email in January 2014. “If we don’t we will not have his side.”
The league also advised the Rams to stay out of the story, deferring to Kroenke’s real-estate company. The Rams complied.
“As real estate developers, the Kroenke Organizations are involved in numerous real estate deals across the country and North America,” the Kroenke Group eventually said in a statement at the time. “We have yet to decide what we are going to do with the property.”
Rams COO Kevin Demoff told the same lie internally. “Our focus will remain 100% on putting the best team on the field for St. Louis in 2014 and beyond,” he wrote in email to team employees after a story broke that Kroenke planned to move the Rams to his new property in L.A.
Then came Goodell, who lied about Kroenke’s plans at the pre-Super Bowl press conference. “Stan is a very large developer on a global basis,” Goodell said. “He has land throughout the country and throughout the world. There are no plans, to my knowledge, of a stadium development.”
Those who follow the league closely aren’t surprised. Those who have read Playmakers are even less surprised. They lie. Pretty much every big company does, whenever it feels like the interests of the business require it.
It’s sad. But it’s true. And it really doesn’t have to be that way. Then again, liars don’t just roll out of bed one day and start lying. It becomes a habit, a way of life, a means to each and every end they want. They do it once, it works, so they keep doing it.
Indeed, years ago Kevin Demoff’s father, Marvin, told me regarding something another reporter had done, “You only lose your integrity once.” The good news, apparently, is once you’ve lost your integrity, you don’t have to worry about losing it anymore.