January 14, 2016
The Los Angeles Rams and the End of Professional Football in the Gateway City
Posted by Matt Bodie

The Rams are moving back to L.A.  I think most of the country doesn't care or is vaguely happy for L.A., since the Rams were taken from Angelenos in 1995.  They had a nice run in St. Louis, including "the Greatest Show on Turf" and a Super Bowl, but now they go back to their presumably rightful location.  (But not Cleveland.)  As a St. Louisan, my feelings are a bit more mixed, as the NFL put the local and state governments through a variety of hoops and then ended up disregarding what was actually a pretty generous stadium plan.  (Too generous.) If you are interested in the local perspective with a big slice of outrage, you can read Bernie Miklasz here.

Coincidentally, Lawrence Phillips died in prison the day after the relocation decision. Phillips was the Rams' first-round pick in 1996 -- he was picked 6th overall after rushing for 165 yards and two touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl for the national champion Nebraska Cornhuskers.  Phillips had been suspended earlier that season after being arrested for assaulting his girlfriend, a player on the women's basketball team, when he allegedly dragged her down a flight of stairs by her hair.  Phillips would have likely gone higher than sixth in the draft based on talent alone, as several teams cited his "off-field" troubles as a matter of concern.  After trading Jerome Bettis to make way for Phillips, the Rams released him in the midst of his second season.  He played for Miami for one year, played in the European League, and then played for the 49ers in 1999.  San Francisco released him before the end of the season. Phillips was blamed for missing a block that led to a hit on Steve Young that rendered him unconscious.  Young's concussion from that hit ultimately led him to retire from the NFL.

Phillips played for the AFL and CFL for a few subsequent years.  He was released by one CFL team after charges of sexual assault were raised.  In 2008 and 2009, he was tried and convicted for two separate sets of charges: driving his car at three teenagers after a pick-up football game and choking a former girlfriend into unconsciousness.   He was sentenced to 31 years.  

In April 2015, Phillips's cellmate -- the cousin of an NFL player -- was found dead by strangulation in their cell.  Phillips was charged with first-degree murder in September.  The day before Phillips's death, he had been ordered to stand trial for the murder.  The cause of his death has been characterized as a suicide.

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