How the NFL really decided on a future in Inglewood

inglewood-stadium-hks.jpgRendering of Inglewood stadium. HKS

ESPN the Magazine goes behind the scenes of the National Football League's recent decision to allow the Rams to move back to the Los Angeles area from St. Louis, to a new stadium to be built on the site of the former Hollywood Park horse racing track. "Few could have guessed that the league's return would become so bloody, bitter and, most of all, emblematic of how power in the NFL truly works," the story teases. The piece is by Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr., who previously broke news on the Boston Patriots' ball-deflating scandal. Van Natta is a former investigative reporter at the New York Times.

Here's an excerpt:

In contentious closed-door meetings in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, New York and, finally, Houston, owners belittled, undercut -- even bullied -- each other in ways never before witnessed, according to interviews with more than two dozen owners, league officials, team executives, lawyers and staffers involved in the relocation efforts, many of whom requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the negotiations.

The split between owners had as much to do with personal loyalties as it did the appeal of the two stadium proposals. The ruthlessness of Kroenke was fixed in sharp relief against the abidance of Spanos. The savvy of Jones, who led the new-money Inglewood supporters, clashed with the brute force of Richardson, leader of the old-money Carson backers. Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company -- which owns ESPN -- was enlisted to run the Carson project, with the hope that his star power could offset Kroenke's money. It wasn't enough. In the end, no owner would feel more pain than Spanos, the league loyalist who did everything his peers asked of him -- only to be forced to work out a face-saving partnership with the man who had beaten him to LA, a process that likely won't be resolved until 2017.

Spanos and Kroenke had long targeted Los Angeles as the best, most attractive option for relocation of their respective teams. Their peers viewed them as being on opposite sides of the ownership spectrum. Now 68 years old, Kroenke -- tall and thin with a thick mustache -- was a largely quiet partner who rarely attended owners meetings and had little patience for the league's glacial-paced relocation process. He has made much of his estimated net worth of $7.6 billion in real estate and bought several sports teams, including the Avalanche and the Nuggets. After his 2011 majority stake purchase of the English Premier League team Arsenal, Kroenke had pined for the larger international presence that other owners envisioned for the NFL's global future.

With thinning brown hair and rimmed glasses, Spanos was deeply involved in league matters, "loyal to a fault," in the words of a close friend. Now 65, he ran the team owned by his 92-year-old father, Alex Spanos. The NFL was his primary business, even if many owners wondered whether he possessed the sharp elbows of his father.

At Mastro's, the two men met to determine whether they might have a shared vision for Los Angeles....

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