NFL owners gather in Atlanta Tuesday amid a report that they are getting tired of one of their brethren, scandal-plagued Washington Commanders boss Daniel Snyder. While that may be true — though an ouster vote is not in the offing at the moment — frustration with another of their peers is building.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke is still resisting pressure to pay for the entirety of the $790 million settlement of the lawsuit by Missouri government entities over the 2016 Rams relocation from St. Louis to Los Angeles. Kroenke agreed as part of the 2016 owners’ vote approving the move to indemnify the league against all legal costs.
He has since argued that legal costs and settlement payments are different, and the league was compelled to settle because of damaging information supplied by the rival group at the time, which was the bid for a stadium in Carson, Calif., by the then-San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders. Former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who was opposed to the Rams’ move, also gave damaging deposition testimony that buttressed the St. Louis argument the league violated its own bylaws, sources said.
Quietly, the league, to pay for the settlement, has already taken $7.5 million from each team, deducting the amount from each club’s revenue-sharing payments, team officials said. That’s $232.5 million from the other 31 clubs (the remainder of the settlement presumably was paid out of NFL financial reserves as it was due by the end of 2021).
The team executives described surprise at the move and complained that the action had caused budgeting issues because of the sudden charge and not knowing whether the money would be returned if Kroenke is ordered by the NFL to pay the whole sum.
The question of Kroenke’s liability initially resided with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the finance committee, but they later shifted the issue to a new five-owner committee charged with recommending an action.
Kroenke has support from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who forcefully advocated for the Rams’ move to reclaim L.A. for the NFL after a more than two-decade absence. Jones also has an interest in Legends, which sells marketing and stadium services and which the Rams hired.
Outside of Jones, it’s not clear how much support Kroenke has on what is an extremely delicate and sensitive issue. The owners can be a tight-knit club, so Kroenke appearing to go back on his indemnification promise has bruised many feelings.
That’s what makes the Snyder report so intriguing, if owners turn on one of their own. A lot would have to happen however for Snyder to be forced out. First, the current allegations against him — that he groped a female employee, hid revenue from the NFL, and scammed season ticket holders — would have to be found largely true. The NFL is investigating all three in probes led by former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White. Snyder and the team dispute all the charges.
The owners have tolerated a lot with the Commanders, from the sexual harassment scandals to the name controversy. Meanwhile, the team has plummeted to nearly dead last in revenues among the 32 clubs, a team source said, an astonishing fall for a franchise that even a decade ago was in the top quartile.
It is not believed any major North American owner has been voted out, though some, like Richardson, voluntarily sold having seen the writing on the wall. Richardson faced documented allegations of sexual harassment. After former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo was ensnared in a Louisiana bribery scandal, he agreed to cede control to family members. In the NBA, the league was ready to move against Clippers owner Donald Sterling for racist comments, but his wife assumed control of the team and agreed to sell.
It would take 24 votes to oust Snyder, but before that even happens, the NFL constitution calls for what amounts to a mini-trial.
“A special meeting of the league shall be called to hear charges; the time and place of such meeting shall be fixed by the commissioner,” the constitution reads. “At such hearing, the commissioner shall preside, unless he is the complainant.
“At the hearing, the member or person so charged shall have the right to appear in person and by counsel,” the Constitution continues. “Strict rules of evidence shall not apply, and any testimony and documentary evidence submitted to the hearing shall be received and considered. Either the complainant or the member or person charged shall be entitled to an adjournment for a reasonable time to enable it or him to present rebuttal evidence. After considering all the evidence, the members shall vote upon the charges and fix the punishment.