This morning, Rams fans are feeling angry, and sad, and betrayed. But at least it’s over. At least they know Stan Kroenke has officially ditched them for Los Angeles. There is no more dread or uncertainty, which can in many ways be even worse than just yanking off the band-aid. There is no such mercy for San Diego or Oakland; this miserable, fucked-up process, seemingly designed by the NFL to inflict maximum pain, provided no finality for Chargers or Raiders fans. They still don’t know where their teams will be playing next season.
Yesterday’s ownership meetings made two thing clear. First, the NFL much preferred Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium, which is further along in planning and funding, to a proposed Chargers/Raiders home in Carson. Second, the NFL really wanted two teams in Los Angeles. So they split the difference, giving the Rams their stadium but forcing them to take on a roommate.
The Chargers are preferred, but since Dean Spanos hadn’t planned for this contingency, the NFL has given him one year, until Jan. 16, 2017, to decide if he’ll shack up with the Rams (either as a tenant or a partner, though Spanos may not have handy the half-billion dollars plus to take an equal share of the stadium). Even sooner, he has to decide by March 23, 2016, if that move will be effective for the 2016 season.
Spanos did not tip his hand after yesterday’s vote, and even made reference to the possibility of getting a deal done for a new stadium in San Diego.
“The Chargers have been approved to relocate to Los Angeles, at the Inglewood location, at any time in the next year,” Spanos said. “In addition, the NFL has granted an additional $100 million in assistance in the event there is a potential solution that can be placed before voters in San Diego. I will be working over the next several weeks to explore the options that we have now created for ourselves to determine the best path forward for the Chargers.”
How the hell do you feel if you’re a Chargers fan right now? Disgusted that you might have another full year of not knowing where the franchise’s future lies? Horrified by the very real possibility of the team playing one last lame-duck season in San Diego? Secretly hopeful that something can be worked out and the Chargers can stay? (Never hope. Hoping is how you get hurt.)
The Chargers’ one-year option gives Spanos leverage over city officials for a new, publicly financed stadium in San Diego. Proposals have previously been made, but none of them gained much traction. But the stakes are different now, and the San Diego Union-Tribune says the Chargers have been preparing for this possibility. To get a new building, they’d want to take it directly to voters, since local politicians haven’t been high on spending hundreds of millions in blackmail. The Chargers are prepared to fund a citizens’ initiative, which would start collecting signatures in March, and if it gained enough support, would appear on a ballot referendum in November.
I personally doubt it will go that far. If the Chargers are going to Los Angeles, they’d want to do so soon. No one wants to be a city’s second team, and by waiting a year the Chargers would give the Rams a full year’s head start in selling tickets and building a fanbase.
But if the Chargers do stay (I’m sorry for writing that clause; I’ve never meant to provide anyone hope), Inglewood will likely still get its second team. If the Chargers’ option expires next January, then the Raiders get their own one-year window to relocate to Los Angeles.
“We’re third on the list,” Davis said. “If the Chargers don’t accept an option to be L.A.’s second team, that option goes to the Raiders. In the meantime, we’re going to look for a home.”
Owner Mark Davis says that no matter what happens, he’s not content to stay in Oakland. The Raiders’ lease is up next month, and Davis, supremely unhappy with the Coliseum, will commit to nothing in the meantime.
Reporter: “Lots of Raiders fans will be happy you’re staying.”
Reporter: “In Oakland”
Davis: “Are we?”
But where would they go, if not L.A.? San Diego? San Antonio? Asked point-blank where the Raiders will play next year, Davis replied, “America. The world is a possibility for the Raider Nation.”
So here we are, one day later, and the only clarity we have is that the Rams are gone. Chargers and Raiders fans, desperate for a stay of execution, or at least a resolution one way or the other, received neither. Both teams will continue to try to extort their host cities, even as both owners scramble for ways out. For fans, closure will have to wait, perhaps for a long time yet.
“Stability is something that we take a lot of pride in,” Roger Goodell said yesterday.