PHOENIX – It’s typical when the reigning NFL commissioner delivers his state of the league address ahead of the Super Bowl for most of the league’s 32 owners to be in attendance.
So it seemed conspicuous when three prominent owners were no shows Friday when Roger Goodell took the podium at the Phoenix Convention – and in one of their cases didn’t even send a representative.
Conspicuous in a very Los Angeles sort of way, I might add.
Dean Spanos, Mark Davis and Stan Kroenke were no where to be found on Friday. Considering their San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams are simultaneously fighting for new local stadiums while also privately – and in some cases publicly – casting an adoring eye on the wide open market that is Los Angeles, their absence hardly seemed coincidental.
Los Angeles has become such a hot topic recently in terms of the Rams or Chargers or Raiders relocating there – especially with Kroenke recently joining forces with Stockbridge Capitol Group to build an 80,000-seat football stadium on the site of the old Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood – it makes sense all three likely wanted to avoid the hassle of dealing with the 200 or so reporters covering Goodell’s speech.
Not that Los Angeles wasn’t a major topic, in front of the cameras and behind them. And while Kroenke was no where to be found, don’t think for a second his presence wasn’t felt all the way from the Mississippi River to Los Angeles.
In fact, an NFL source told me Friday Kroenke has covertly begun the process of collating support from fellow owners should he actually decide to move the Rams to Los Angeles.
Short of just uprooting his franchise without permission from the NFL – and that seems an unlikely path – Kroenke will need 24 fellow owners to sign off on any relocation.
“That’s one of the key questions to sort out. Is he going to be able to get 24 guys to come along with him?” the source told me.
Kroenke, it seems, is taking steps to help insure he gets what he needs.
“I’ve seen some bridge building on the part of Mr. Kroenke. I’ve seen him trying to build relationships league wide,” the NFL source said. “I don’t know that he can just power through what he thinks he can do without support.
“It still comes down to – I would think 24 – but if not you certainty need momentum and support within the ownership. You can’t go rouge. That’s not the way the league works,” the source added.
Whether Kroenke gets the necessary approval remains to be seen. With the Raiders and Chargers also eyeing Los Angeles, there is the chance one or both could work to block him.
And at this point, Kroenke has yet to actually state what his intentions are – whether Los Angeles is truly his end game or if he’s using it as leverage to get a new stadium built in St. Louis.
But he actions indicate he wants to be in California. Now begins the process politically and within the league of making that happen.
“He’s got some work to do, but from what I can see he’s begun that,” the NFL source said. “And now that he’s put it out there he’ll be more high profile (within in the league) He’s working on it.
“I’ve seen some movement on his part to start to build some support within the league, and with the other owners.”