The next five days are going to prove crucial for the futures of the Chargers and the Raiders, of San Diego and Las Vegas and Los Angeles, and as 18 influential NFL owners gather in New York to figure out who’s going where, the one man who can unilaterally pick up and move his team—Chargers owner Dean Spanos—won’t be there.
Spanos has until Monday to exercise his option to pack up and move the Chargers to Los Angeles. The agreement negotiated last year gave the team one year to decide whether to stay, or to become a tenant in the Rams’ new stadium, scheduled to open in 2019. And the important thing here is, Spanos can exercise that option without getting any further approval from the commissioner or his fellow owners. No one can stop him. As much as they’d like to, reportedly.
“No one is going to tell Dean he can’t go,” the source said. “They’re going to tell him he shouldn’t go.”
CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora has a pretty good report on the drama on tap today, as the NFL’s stadium and finance committees meet. It sure as heck sounds like the owners are disappointed with the Rams’ initial showing in L.A.—low ratings and a struggling, unloveable team—and are coming to terms with what the rest of the world has been saying for years: Until there’s proof Los Angeles can support one NFL team, maybe it’s bad business to cram two in there.
But since Spanos doesn’t need league approval to exercise his option to move, all the NFL can do is throw money at him. And La Canfora reports that the owners are preparing to finalize a pitch to get him to stay, a pitch that could center upon league money for stadium upgrades. (The Chargers’ push for a publicly funded stadium in San Diego has failed, with a ballot measure being soundly rejected by voters.)
In the back of everyone’s mind is the Raiders’ and Las Vegas’s mutual courtship, and that appears to be chugging forward. Mark Davis will be at the owner meetings today to make his case to relocate, and he is reportedly prepared to forego his own Los Angeles option to focuses entirely on Vegas, where stadium plans are progressing and where sizable public funding has so far been assured at every level.
An NFL vote on the Raiders’ relocation could be held as early as the owners’ spring meeting in March, but it is dependent on what happens with the Chargers this week. It is clear how the league would like all of this to shake out. It’s much less clear if they can convince Dean Spanos to see it their way.