ST. LOUIS — Attorney Bob Blitz's name has been associated with the fight to first keep the Rams in St. Louis, and then the fight to hold those who relocated them accountable, more than just about anyone else's.
Blitz, 74, is a member of the Clayton law firm Blitz, Bardgett and Deutsch LC.
He was part of the task force that explored building a new riverfront stadium to keep the team, which of course, was dashed by owner Stan Kroenke moving the Rams to Los Angeles. That effort cost $18 million.
Then, in 2017, he joined the case representing St. Louis City, St. Louis County and the St. Louis Regional Sports Authority against Kroenke and the NFL.
Eventually, Blitz was disqualified from the case in late October 2021, because of his likelihood to be called as a witness at a trial.
Of course, there wasn't a trial. The case was settled on Nov. 24, 2021 for a sum of $790 million.
Now, Blitz is shedding some more light on the settlement, and what happened in the case. He spoke to 5 On Your Side's Frank Cusumano for a feature on Sports Plus.
Blitz said from the very beginning, he knew this was going to be a big deal, even though others may not have thought much of it at first.
"When we filed the case. We never thought this was an $18 million case. We always thought it was going to be larger," Blitz said.
"We looked at this for six months. By the time we were done, we didn't have any fear. We thought we were gonna win. That's why we took the case," Blitz said. "As it turned out we did so much preparation on that case that we predicted everything that the defendants would do and we were right. They did everything we thought they would do."
Blitz said he never would have joined the lawsuit if he didn't think St. Louis was in the right.
"If I didn't think we were right, if Ed Dowd and Jim Bennett didn't think we were right, we would never have been there. And we proved ourselves in a large way, that yes, they paid us a lot of money to go away, so I guess they did something," Blitz said.
Even after the hefty sum was announced, there were many fans and skeptics around St. Louis disappointed the case was settled and not taken to trial. Blitz addressed that as well.
He reiterated that the final call on settling a case lies with the clients. In this case that's the city, county and RSA. But he could not comment on any specifics that occurred during the mediation that the settlement arose from.
"Clients always make the call. But they do it with the advice of their attorneys," Blitz said.
As for the timing of the settlement, Blitz did shed some light on some possible risks that could have arisen if the case were taken to trial, other than the obvious risk of losing at trial.
One of those factors, was COVID-19.
"We wouldn't have gone to trial on Jan. 10. You realize that don't you? We wouldn't have had a jury. COVID," Blitz said.
"In my mind it was a factor because you have to understand how hard it is to get a jury in that case."
Another factor was what could have happened to the case on appeal and possibly going all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
"Just to run it through the state courts, easy three years with those types of difficult issues. Then you're gonna get an appeal to the United States Supreme Court on the arbitration issue. That was a very big issue, the arbitration issue," Blitz said. "The Supreme Court of the United States had denied the right to arbitration to the Rams and Kroenke twice in writs of certiorari. But that was a different Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was on it, now they've been replaced by, I think (Brett) Kavanaugh is new to it and I think Amy Coney Barrett is new to it. So, I don't know how that would have come out. But it definitely would have gone there as an appeal and not as a certiorari where they would have had to take the case."
Blitz also mentioned how Oakland's case against the League was upheld by an appeals court just days after the St. Louis team accepted the settlement.
"Just think, if you'd have waited three days longer you had a case from Oakland come down where the federal court threw Oakland's case out. It was a little different theory they were using, but they threw Oakland's case out against the NFL," Blitz said. "Second, you have the COVID issue. Are you going to be able to get a jury on Jan. 10? And if the courts issue an order saying 'We're closing down all civil litigation' two or three days later, you're not talking about the courthouse steps on Jan. 10. You're talking about the courthouse steps a year from now."
Many of the people who have expressed dissatisfaction from the result of the lawsuit were hoping to see Kroenke and others answer publicly, and/or somehow get a new team out of the case. Blitz said the thought of getting an NFL team out of this lawsuit was not something that would have been possible.
"You can't file a lawsuit to get a team back. There's no way that this court can make the team come back to St. Louis," Blitz said. "The law is a funny thing. There's certain things that you can get under the law and certain things you can't. Blood and bringing the Rams back are something you can't get."
During the trial, Judge Christopher McGraugh, who was overseeing the case, caught some heat for siding favorably with the St. Louis team. Blitz had something to say about that, too.
"There were people that said he was just ruling in our favor. That's not true. The first time he ever ruled, he cut out many, many defendants from many of our claims. But we didn't complain about it. We still had our critical mass (of evidence). We disagreed with him, we didn't like it," Blitz said.
As for Stan Kroenke, Blitz said he didn't have any direct contact with the Rams owner other than watching his deposition, but he did have some thoughts on him.
"You have to give the devil their due. He's been a very successful businessman. Some people attribute that to other than his own acumen, but there are a lot of people that have those advantages who don't do well. So he's been successful at that," Blitz said. "I certainly don't like the way he treated St. Louis and those allegations were all in the petition. But it's a lawsuit. And It's a lawsuit based on fact and law. And I stick to that. Stan Kroenke is not really on my mind at all in any manner. He's just a defendant in a lawsuit that we think wronged the plaintiffs."
As for Kroenke's deposition, Blitz knows it's not the same as seeing the Rams owner on the stand, but thinks St. Louis would have been pleased had they been able to watch it.
"You can't get blood in a lawsuit. You can't plead, 'We want blood'. It's very difficult to get Stan here (to testify in a trial) because he's out of state, even though he's a party," Blitz said. "I think that they would have been very, very pleased to see Stan on a large screen in the deposition that he gave, and the answers that he gave, and the exhibits that were used, I think they would have been very pleased. It's like watching a movie these days. Unfortunately they didn't get to see it, and I get that."
Now, looking back on the case, Blitz said he hopes there can be some positives to draw from, aside from just the monetary result.
"What makes me so happy about that is that it acknowledged St. Louis, it acknowledged Mayor Jones, it acknowledged Jim Shrewsbury of the RSA, it acknowledged the county executive. We became back on the map nationwide in a very, very positive manner. And I think that the best thing we can take from that is to take the positive going. And that if we can, I think it'll be a great boon to the region. That's what I hope. We have this positive light on us now," Blitz said.
"Our purpose was not to send a message. Our purpose was to win, and to win big, and that's what we did. I believe, and it would only be logical, that every other city that has a vision that they might have a relocation problem with the NFL, is focused on St. Louis. And I believe that is another great thing that happened."
Of course, Blitz and the other lawyers involved in the settlement will receive a significant cut from the $790 million that has been received by the city, county and RSA.
Blitz said after the settlement was official, there was some sense of relief.
"I went to lunch with Ed Dowd and Jim Bennett and we had a glass of wine and something to eat, and I went home and went to sleep. That's how I celebrated," Blitz said.