Newspaper article International New York Times

To Rams' Owner, It's Business; to St. Louis Fans, It's Personal ; A Native of Missouri, Kroenke Angered Many with Remarks about City

Newspaper article International New York Times

To Rams' Owner, It's Business; to St. Louis Fans, It's Personal ; A Native of Missouri, Kroenke Angered Many with Remarks about City

Article excerpt

In lobbying to move his team, Stan Kroenke did not endear himself to the people of St. Louis, contending that the city does not deserve the N.F.L.

Enos Stanley Kroenke, a native of Missouri and the owner of the Rams, is named after two of this city's most revered baseball figures, the hustling outfielder Enos Slaughter and the gentlemanly hitter Stan Musial.

Mr. Kroenke, 68, was once a local hero, too. He helped lure the Rams, a National Football League franchise, from Los Angeles in 1995 and was a minority owner of the team when it won the Super Bowl in 2000.

But now that the Rams are returning to the West Coast, Mr. Kroenke has assumed the cartoon villainy of many a franchise owner who has broken a city's heart by relocating a team.

"We can't stand him," Norris Daniels, 27, an airport worker, said Wednesday. "It's Trump, then him."

This enmity stems not merely from the Rams' departure, but also from the manner in which they are leaving -- after a poison-pen Dear John letter by Mr. Kroenke, who suggested that St. Louis was an economic abyss ill suited to hosting an N.F.L. team.

For many in this devoted sports town, it was the equivalent of a husband's declaring publicly not only that he wants to leave his wife for another woman but that his wife deserves to spend the rest of her life alone. Mr. Kroenke's actions are evoking a sense of abandonment similar to that felt in Brooklyn when Walter O'Malley moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles after the 1957 season, in Baltimore when Robert Irsay spirited the Colts to Indianapolis under cover of darkness in 1984, and in Cleveland when Art Modell took the Browns to Baltimore before the 1996 season. Except, in this case, Mr. Kroenke seems to have twisted the knife an extra half-turn or so.

Chane Keller, 26, a real estate developer and a Rams season- ticket holder, said that widespread dislike for Mr. Kroenke might accomplish something once considered unthinkable here: restoring the popularity of Bill Bidwill, who moved the football Cardinals from St. Louis to Phoenix after the 1987 season.

"It's disappointing" to see the Rams go, Mr. Keller said, "but good riddance to Kroenke. He was cruel. You don't kick a person when they're down."

In lobbying his fellow N.F.L. owners to let him move his franchise, Mr. Kroenke suggested that it was not economically feasible for St. Louis to sustain the Rams along with baseball's Cardinals and hockey's Blues. His position, first reported by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was criticized here as being gratuitous and exaggerated, but nevertheless, it was considered devastating.

Compared with "all other U.S. cities, St. Louis is struggling," Mr. Kroenke contended in his application to move the Rams, adding that the city "lags, and will continue to lag, far behind in the economic drivers that are necessary for sustained success of an N.F.L. franchise."

Mr. Kroenke complained about sagging attendance and the condition of the domed stadium where his team played. And he dismissed St. Louis's plan to build a $1.1 billion open-air stadium, saying, "Any N.F.L. club that signs on to this proposal in St. …

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