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More officials resist depositions in case against NFL, which cites new Kroenke statements

The 27-page filing offers a glimpse of Rams owner Stan Kroenke's own testimony in the case
Credit: SLBJ
Explore St. Louis President Kitty Ratcliffe

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis' top tourism officials are the latest local leaders to resist efforts by the National Football League and Los Angeles Rams to make them sit for depositions in the lawsuit over the team's 2016 move.

The effort to depose Explore St. Louis President Kitty Ratcliffe and Chairman Andrew Leonard was disclosed in a filing made under seal last week asking a judge to force their appearance. The Business Journal obtained a copy of the document.

The 27-page filing also offers a glimpse of Rams owner Stan Kroenke's own testimony in the case, made virtually last month, and hints at arguments likely to be heard if the case advances to trial, which is now scheduled for October.

The lawsuit, filed in 2017 by the city of St. Louis, St. Louis County and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority (RSA), argues that the NFL violated its own relocation policy in allowing the Rams to leave St. Louis. A 2019 ESPN report indicated plaintiffs were seeking a cut of the relocation fees given to each team, a figure that could surpass $1 billion.

Explore St. Louis operates the Dome at America's Center, where the Rams used to play, but it's not a party to the lawsuit. The NFL, though, in its filing contends that Explore St. Louis officials have information pertinent to its defense and should be compelled to testify.

Ratcliffe referred questions to Explore's attorney, Bob Wallace of Thompson Coburn LLP, who said the organization, also known as the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission (CVC), would respond in court by Wednesday.

He said Explore St. Louis' position is "not about not wanting to be deposed," but partly an effort to limit legal fees charged to the organization.

The league says Ratcliffe is refusing to sit in part because the St. Louis Circuit Court in 2018 ruled that discovery — the process in which testimony and documents are collected — could not include documents relating to the 2013 Dome arbitration.

In that infamous dispute, related to an original lease clause stating that the Dome had to be kept as a top-tier facility in the league, arbitrators sided with the Rams and ruled that local authorities should make $700 million in upgrades to the Dome, which never happened. They rejected lesser upgrades proposed by Explore St. Louis worth $124 million.

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