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Why the Rams moved to Los Angeles, explained

How did the Rams get to this point?

NFL, Rams, 49ers, NFC Championship Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Rams franchise made its return to Los Angeles in 2016 after its long stay in St. Louis, Missouri. That’s right, a stay.

For some football fans, and even players too, they are too young (let alone were even born) to remember when the Rams made their move from LA to St. Louis in 1995. The team remained the St. Louis Rams for 21 years, and in their fifth year after the west-coast return, they are contenders in this year’s Super Bowl.

The Rams have made a lot of moves since the team was formed back in 1936. Here’s a brief timeline so you get the picture:

1936: The Cleveland Rams were founded as a franchise in the American Football League.

1937: Moved to the National Football League.

1943: Took a brief hiatus and suspended all operations.

1944: The Cleveland Rams returned... very briefly.

1945: The Rams said goodbye to Ohio, and hello Los Angeles!

1946: The team held its longest stint in LA, lasting 48 years.

1995: The team was moved to Missouri, becoming the St. Louis Rams.

2016: The team became the LA Rams once again.

In the span of the entire Rams franchise, they have won only one Super Bowl which was in St. Louis. So what made them come back to LA?

The most simple answer is money.

The Rams franchise wanted their stadium to be one of the best in the NFL, and desires weren’t being met. Holding this stature would also come with luxury boxes, amenities, and the ability to offer an overall enjoyable fan experience.

When the team moved to St. Louis in 1995, they signed a lease agreement that would guarantee that, by 2015, the stadium will be among the top 25 percent in the league, according to Pro Football Talk. In 2013, the Rams and the city of St. Louis went to arbitration over the ordeal. The arbitrators sided with the Rams, and this allowed them to break their lease.

In January of 2016, the Rams franchise, along with the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers, filed for relocation. Each team had their own respective issues with its location and stadiums.

All 32 NFL owners gathered to vote on the relocation of the Rams to Los Angeles. It ended in a 30-2 vote to bring the team back to LA. This left Rams owner, Stan Kroenke, to pay a fee of $550 million to the NFL for relocation, according to ESPN.

The article also states that Missouri did ”plan for an open-air, $1.1 billion stadium along the Mississippi River north of the Gateway Arch to replace the Edward Jones Dome,” which was the stadium located in St. Louis.

“We understand the emotions involved of our fans,” he told ESPN. “We made a decision and worked long and hard at the various alternatives. When they didn’t succeed, we worked this one to this point.”

Kroenke had also suggested the economy of St. Louis was hard to flourish in, but that was really a half-truth.

While the Rams did struggle with attendance in their final five years in St. Louis, routinely only filling 80-85 percent of its 67,000 seat stadium, the product on the field was a disaster. Jeff Fisher’s 7-9 middling coaching performances inspired so much apathy the team became its own meme. Couple that with the writing being on the wall that Kroenke was looking to move the team, and it was clear why the city were no longer all-in on the Rams. In their final season in St. Louis, the Rams averaged around 52,400 fans.

“People forget that when we brought the team to St. Louis, the city had already a built NFL stadium without a tenant. Think about that,” Kroenke told Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim.

It was very important to the Rams, when they moved there, to have the lease in proper form that required the stadium to be kept in a certain way for the long-term stability of the franchise. Stadiums shouldn’t be a competitive disadvantage. That was the situation we were faced with, and an independent panel of judges agreed with us.”

As exciting as it may have been for LA to bring the Rams back to their city, it left a sour taste it the mouth of St. Louis. On April 12, 2017, the city sued the NFL for the team’s relocation process.

The NFL and all 32 teams were listed as defendants in the case, with St. Louis seeking damages and restitution of profits from the Rams’ move, per Bleacher Report’s Adam Wells.

In November 2021, the case then came to a close, ending in a $790 million settlement. The dream of a smooth, conflict-free move to Los Angeles never came to pass — but the payment was a drop in the bucket compared to what it cost to build SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, and the financial benefits Kroenke and the NFL reap from Los Angeles

The money, that’s what it’s all about, right?