Jerry Jones carried a smile on his face and a celebratory drink in his hand as he left the NFL owners meetings to fly home. The Cowboys owner spearheaded a compromise that will see the NFL return to Los Angeles after a 21-year absence.
“This is a tidewater day, if you will,” Jones said. “This is a significant day because it allows us to not only do what we need to do in Los Angeles, but it is a significant endorsement to our commissioner.
“Our commissioner was brilliant in how he led the ownership to this decision. As much as we talk about our television and our content and our viewers, this was so important that we do it the rightest way we could in Los Angeles.”
After negotiating all day, ownership came to a compromise in a 30-2 vote. The St. Louis Rams will move back to LA, with the Chargers securing a one-year option to decide whether to share the facility.
The Rams played in the Los Angeles area from 1946-94 before moving to St. Louis. The Raiders also left Los Angeles after the 1994 season.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke has committed $2.6 billion to the Inglewood, Calif., complex, according to Jones. The Cowboys owner long has endorsed Kroenke as the owner with the vision, the wherewithal and the checkbook to move to LA
The new stadium will open in 2019, with the Rams likely calling the Los Angeles Coliseum home until then.
“St. Louis is a fabulous city in a fabulous state, and certainly they’re an NFL city,” Jones said. “It’s just that Stan Kroenke is in an exceptional situation, and he has great sports interests and great willingness to put serious resources toward his enthusiasm. Those are called angels in the NFL.
“He will be such a face of that franchise, with what he’s done just by the sheer fact that he’s willing to commit several billion, not just the cost of the stadium, but the cost of the whole development around it. And it’s not on paper. It’s not options. This is the real deal. That really ruled the day in the NFL, and it should rule the day.”
The Raiders also were a candidate to move to Los Angeles, and still could if San Diego doesn’t. The Chargers bought time to continue negotiations with San Diego to build a new stadium there.
The NFL has committed $100 million to the Chargers and to the Raiders if either lands a stadium deal in their current market.
“I will be working over the next several weeks to explore the options that we have now created for ourselves to determine the best path forward for the Chargers,” chairman Dean Spanos said.
Jones left open the possibility of St. Louis getting back an NFL team in the future. St. Louis has proposed a $1.1 billion stadium to replace the Edward Jones Dome, but the plan includes $200 million from the league.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said league policy limits its contribution to $100 million.
“Don’t rule St. Louis out,” Jones said. “It’s got too much backbone. It’s got too much tradition. It’s got a lot going for it. St. Louis is not only a great city; it’s the heart of America. It’s an NFL city. It just didn’t have it right this time. ... Get it right the next time relative to other teams.”
The Houston Oilers were the last NFL team to move, going to Tennessee in 1997.
“Relocation is a painful process,” Goodell said. “It’s painful for the fans, for communities, for the teams, for the league in general. Stability is something that we have taken a great deal of pride in, and in some ways, a bittersweet moment, because we were unsuccessful in being able to get the kind of facilities we wanted to get done in their home markets.
“So the excitement that we feel about being able to return the Rams to Los Angeles is balance with a disappointment that we weren’t able to get it done for our fans in St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland. But we’ll continue to try in those markets, and we’ll continue to try to address those issues.”