St. Louis City officials said Wednesday that the owner of the Rams isn’t returning their calls, so they plan to work directly with the NFL on efforts to keep a team — any team — in St. Louis amid speculation the Rams are headed back to Los Angeles, Arash Markazi of ESPN reports.
Rams billionaire owner Stan Kroenke is part of a joint venture that announced plans Monday for an 80,000-seat stadium in the Los Angeles suburbs, a move that could soon return the NFL to the nation’s second-largest market and the home of the Rams from 1946 until they moved to St. Louis in 1995. The move would have to wait at least a year; the NFL has said no team moves would be allowed in 2015.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon isn’t giving up on the Rams.
“St. Louis is an NFL city,” Nixon said Wednesday. “I don’t think it’s too late to keep the Rams.”
But city leaders are hedging their bets, saying the plan now is to work directly with the NFL, not the Rams. The change in philosophy is due in part to the fact that Kroenke won’t take calls from Mayor Francis Slay or other city leaders, said Maggie Crane, Slay’s spokeswoman.
“He hasn’t responded, he hasn’t called back, he hasn’t done anything,” Crane said of Kroenke.
“After a while, you sort of get the hint,” said Jeff Rainford, the mayor’s chief of staff.
Messages left Wednesday at Kroenke’s office were not returned. A Rams spokesman declined comment.
“The NFL can make money in St. Louis,” Rainford said. “It may end up being the Rams with this owner, the Rams with a different owner, a different team with a different owner.”
Rainford said St. Louis can make a compelling argument to remain an NFL city: It is the nation’s 20th-largest market, with a loyal fan base that sold out every game at the Edward Jones Dome from the team’s arrival until a long run of bad play — the Rams haven’t had a winning record since 2003.
If the Rams leave, it isn’t clear which team St. Louis might pursue.
The Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers also have been reported as teams that could move to Los Angeles.