Why Did the Rams Leave St. Louis? A Tragic History

why did the rams leave st louis

When the Rams relocated from St. Louis to Los Angeles in 2016, it was painful (to say the least). Even today, many St. Louis locals are still asking why did this happen?

Some say that the Rams owner was greedy. Others say that St. Louis wasn’t built for an NFL team. But today, I’m turning on my investigative journalism chops to find the real truth. And I think I found the answer. 

How long were the Rams in St. Louis?

It turns out that the Rams never really belonged to St. Louis in the first place. Founded as a franchise in the American Football League in 1936, this team was originally the Cleveland Rams. In 1937, the Rams were moved to the NFL. Six years later, the Cleveland Rams took a short hiatus, only to return (very briefly) in 1944. 

A year later, the Cleveland Rams moved to Los Angeles – that’s right, the Rams actually belonged to LA long before their stint in St. Louis. In fact, the Rams played in Los Angeles for the next 48 years! 

Finally, in 1995, the team moved to St. Louis, becoming the St. Louis Rams. Unfortunately, in 2016, the team moved back to Los Angeles yet again. Prior to 2022, the Rams had only won one Super Bowl, which was during their time in St. Louis – so why did they want to leave?

Where it all went wrong

The Rams franchise wanted their stadium to be the best in the NFL, but apparently, these needs weren’t met during their time in St. Louis.

Upon their move to St. Louis in 1995, the Rams signed a lease agreement that would guarantee their stadium would be among the top 25% in the league by 2015. Spoiler alert: by the 2010s, the Rams still didn’t have the stadium they were hoping for. However, the state of Missouri did plan for an open-air $1.1 billion stadium to replace the Edward Jones Dome, the stadium where the Rams regularly played.

It turns out that the billion-dollar stadium plan just wasn’t good enough for Stan Kroenke, the Rams owner. By 2013, Kroenke took the Rams and the city of St. Louis to arbitration over the disagreement. The arbitrators sided with the Rams, allowing them to break their lease. This resulted in the team filing for relocation in January 2016. When the 32 NFL owners met for a vote on the relocation, it concluded with a 30-2 vote in favor of the Rams heading back to LA

However, this relocation didn’t come without a hefty price tag. According to ESPN, Stan Kroenke, the owner, had to pay a fee of a whopping $550 million to relocate. Not to mention, this move lost the franchise almost their entire St. Louis fanbase. 

A slap in the face to St. Louis

Let’s be clear – we St. Louisans weren’t just upset about our football team abandoning us. We were upset with the countless insults that Kroenke listed in the scathing, 29-page application to move the Rams from St. Louis to LA. 

According to the application, we’re struggling. We’re poor. And there’s just not enough of us. 

Kroenke complained that the St. Louis economy was impossible to flourish in, but this wasn’t the whole truth. While it’s true that the Rams sometimes struggled to fill its 67,000-seat stadium, that was primarily because of the team’s performance (it wasn’t great). When you look at the Rams’ game time fiasco combined with the rumors of leaving St. Louis, it makes sense why the city wasn’t all-in on this team.

How it ended

While I’m sure Los Angeles was thrilled about the return of the Rams, St. Louis was left with a sour taste in its mouth. In April 2017, St. Louis decided to sue the NFL because of the Rams’ relocation process. 

The case didn’t come to a close until November 2021, resulting in a massive $790 million settlement. Ouch.

Although the settlement seems a bit painful, it was nothing compared to the cost of the new LA Rams stadium – $5 billion. Saying that the Rams’ move out of St. Louis was a bit rocky would be the understatement of the century. 

So, why exactly did the Rams leave St. Louis?

The answer is simple – it was all about the money and the image. Stan Kroenke believed the Rams would be more profitable in a city like Los Angeles. In some ways, maybe he’s right. 

However, if you compare the success of the St. Louis Rams to the St. Louis Cardinals, it’s clear that the issues didn’t lie within the city. St. Louisans have high standards, and quite frankly, we want to be fans of a team that can actually play well. If you have a solid team with great coaches, St. Louis is more than happy to offer their support. 

Will the Rams ever come back to St. Louis?

I think it’s safe to say that when the Rams left, they burnt some bridges, and I’d even say the wound hasn’t quite healed just yet. When the LA Rams made the Super Bowl in 2022, all of my local friends were rooting for the Bengals just because they didn’t want the Rams to win. Yes, it clearly still hurts, and no, the Rams won’t be coming back to St. Louis.

Will St. Louis get another NFL team any time soon? Probably not. However, in a city with the St. Louis Cardinals, Ted Drewes, toasted ravioli, and a new MLS stadium, I’d say we’re doing just fine without one. Take that, Stan Kroenke.