By David A. Cook, President, UFCW Local 655
Whatever relationship Stan Kroenke had left with the city of St. Louis he lit on fire this week when his Rams formally submitted a proposal to move to L.A. that was laced with ferocious criticisms for our city.
Kroenke, one of the wealthiest and most powerful owners in all of professional sports, said any NFL team that moves to St. Louis and the new world-class stadium we’ve proposed will be “well on the road to financial ruin,” and calls San Diego and Oakland far superior markets to the St. Louis area.
Forget for a moment Kroenke’s selective reading of our city’s economic health. Forget his stunning ability to ignore a passionate and engaged fan base.
Forget his abject refusal to work with, or even communicate with, and totally ignore the community that hosts this football team.
Forget all that and remember than Enos Stanley Kroenke made his first mark in the business world partnering with the Walton family, helping build strip malls and Walmarts around the nation. Kroenke the businessman was forged in the dark and ugly world of real-estate development working for one of the most shameful corporate actors in America.
Walmart has a formula, that’s familiar to anyone following the long saga of St. Louis’ struggle to build a new NFL stadium:
First they demand special tax breaks and incentives, despite being one of the most profitable companies on Earth.
Second if anyone dares to refuse these incentives, Walmart retaliates by painting a grim picture of life without them, dangling the threat of moving just across city lines to a neighboring town and blessing some other community with their presence.
Third, Walmart asks for special treatment, a bending of zoning rules, anything they want — regardless of how onerous it is to the existing community they are holding hostage or to a potential “new” community they threaten to move to — to allow Walmart to build their stores exactly how they like them, local standards be damned.
Fourth, Walmart is not above intimidation or weaving lies about those standing in their way.
Pitting communities against each other to squeeze every possible dime out of local taxpayers, all while having billions of your own cash, is the Walmart way.
How naïve are we to expect Kroenke — who is married to a Walmart heir and sitting on a fortune built on their ugly business practices — to treat us any differently than he has?
Let us remember that Kroenke only brought the Rams back to St. Louis because the city offered him an obscenely rich deal, one of the best in the league at the time. The deal, a laundry list of concessions from a city desperate for an NFL franchise, gave Kroenke and the Rams permission to break their lease and leave town if the Edward Jones Dome did not remain “state-of-the-art.” Kroenke, always knowing this would be his window to one day abandon this city for greener pastures, is now doing just that, because that’s the Walmart business model he knows and practices with relish.
In short, all Enos Stanley Kroenke has done is treat St. Louis with the same contempt and cynicism that Walmart regularly treats communities and its workers.
When you go shopping:
Remember the saga of Kroenke and his cruel attempt to depart.
Remember who Kroenke is and where he comes from.
Remember that every dime you spend at Walmart is another nail in the coffin of the St. Louis Rams.
Don’t put money into the pockets of the people trying to take as much as they can out of yours.
David A. Cook is President of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655 in St. Louis.