The Los Angeles bogeyman has always served the NFL well; its mere invocation has been enough to earn many a team a publicly funded stadium. But now we're finding out what happens when too many teams make a play for that leverage at the same time: chaos.

The Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers have announced plans to build a shared $1.7 billion stadium in Carson, Calif., should their attempts to wring enough taxpayer money for new stadiums from their current hometowns come up short.

From the joint statement issued last night:

  • We are pursuing this stadium option in Carson for one straightforward reason: If we cannot find a permanent solution in our home markets, we have no alternative but to preserve other options to guarantee the future economic viability of our franchises.
  • In short, for the remainder of 2015, we intend to move down two tracks simultaneously:
  • On track one, we will continue to work in our home markets to find permanent stadium solutions that are publicly acceptable.
  • On track two, we will work in Carson to preserve our options, and the future economic viability of our franchises, in the event that our efforts in our local markets fail.

Advertisement

Despite the teams making all the right noises about "respect[ing] the rules and procedures set forth by the League" when it comes to relocation, we know for a fact—thanks to antitrust laws that were tested the last time the Raiders moved to L.A.—that the NFL cannot stop an owner from moving a team. The Chargers and Raiders could pack up for Los Angeles, the Rams could join them there, and neither the other owners nor Roger Goodell could do a damned thing about it.

Americans have caught on to the stadium scam, and local politicians are no longer so eager to throw tax money at money-losing propositions. That leaves three franchises so unhappy with their current situations that they'd seriously consider moving, but only one realistically viable destination. And that's going to make for one hell of a contentious owners' meeting next month.

Relocation-threat dynamics have always been fairly simple. A team pits its partner against a suitor. But here, with with not enough suitors to go around, there's a new angle: the Chargers, Raiders, and Rams are competing against each other, forming strange bedfellows, ganging up on the odd team out, tying their own new-stadium gambits to those of the other two. It has the potential for disaster, and for endless lawsuits, and for a radically altered NFL landscape.

Advertisement

Naturally, fans of the two divisional rivals proposing to elope together are furious. Here's Union-Tribune columnist Kevin Acee, speaking for many San Diegans fed up with years of being jerked around by their team.

That line was swiftly edited out of the piece. The sentiment stands.