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Cross-ownership issue looms for Kroenke

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 13: A general view of Dodger Stadium is seen during the first pitch of the game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants on April 13, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Giants 11-1. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Jeff Gross

In late January, when Rams owner Stan Kroenke emerged as a potential buyer for the L.A. Dodgers, we asked the league about the potential application of the cross-ownership rules.

“We have not been presented with any proposal to evaluate,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said at the time. “Thus, we will refrain from speculating.”

Less than two months later, with Kroenke now one of three finalists to buy the team, the league still may not be ready to speculate, but it’s definitely ready to act in the event that Kroenke emerges as the new owner of the Dodgers.

“I have told Commissioner Selig this, if [Kroenke] is ultimately the winning bid, then we would immediately move with our committees and our membership to have the discussion,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday at the league meetings. “So we would move as quickly as possible knowing that it is an important issue for baseball.”

For now, even though no NFL team is in Los Angeles, a potential issue seems to exist under the cross-ownership rules.

"[Kroenke] is aware of it,” Goodell said. “Baseball is aware of it. It would have to be addressed by our membership.”

Kroenke undoubtedly would contend that, because no NFL team currently resides in the L.A. market, he may own a non-NFL sports franchise there. But Goodell also said Monday that Los Angeles is a “league market,” which could mean that even without a team in L.A. at the moment, the NFL believes the cross-ownership rules apply. (We have requested clarification from the league office.)

It could be a matter of form over substance. The NFL had no problem with Kroenke committing to shift control of the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche once he became owner of the Rams. (In fact, Kroenke still actively owns the two Denver-area non-NFL franchises; under the deal with the NFL, the transition won’t happen until 2014.) The league will likely find a way around this one, especially since the NFL would be getting involved at a time when it would be a little awkward, to say the least, to tell Kroenke he can’t buy the Dodgers.

If the NFL were going to block Kroenke from buying the Dodgers, the time to act would have been back in January, when the league regarded the entire issue as a matter of speculation.

In the interim, look for more speculation to emerge regarding a possible move of the Rams to Los Angeles -- and regarding the possible construction of a stadium adjacent to Dodgers Stadium.

“We have often said that is an extraordinary stadium site up at Dodgers Stadium, and it is something we were interested in going back to the 1990s,” Goodell said.

And then there were three potential locations for an NFL venue in Los Angeles. Just like the three candidates to own the Dodgers.

Look for this to come to a head soon. The winning bidder for the Dodgers is due to be identified by April 1.

UPDATE 8:04 a.m. ET: NFL spokesman Greg Aiello says via email that “L.A. is treated as an NFL market for purposes of the policy. It was designated as an NFL market by the league (32 clubs collectively) after the departure of the Rams and Raiders from L.A.”