Author: Gregory Feiner
Next year, the NFL is going to bring at least one of three teams to Los Angeles and, consequently, apocalyptic gridlock to the one relatively traffic-free day of the week. The teams in question — the Oakland Raiders, the St. Louis Rams and my hapless 2-6 San Diego Chargers — are considering relocation because they are all unhappy with their current stadiums, and LA, as America’s second city (sorry Chicago), is by far the largest unclaimed market. In doing so, the Chargers have antagonized their fan base in a way that the other teams haven’t, which could put them in an uncomfortable position if they can’t leave San Diego.
Though Los Angeles could certainly support two NFL teams, three would likely be unsustainable. That means at least one team will be the odd one out when the NFL owners vote on relocation this January. That’s most likely the Chargers.
The Rams and Raiders have history in Los Angeles; both played in the city as recently as 1995 and have strong fan bases in the area as a result. The Chargers don’t have that history. Though they played one season in Los Angeles, they moved to San Diego in 1961 and have been there ever since.
Even though the head of the Chargers’ relocation efforts — special counsel to the team and most hated man in San Diego, Mark Fabiani — said in a statement that 25 percent of the Chargers’ season ticket base comes from LA and Orange County, the team’s presence in the Los Angeles market likely doesn’t come close to that of the Rams and Raiders. The Rams’ presence in particular is strong enough that Inglewood City Council unanimously approved a proposal, backed by Rams owner and developer Stan Kroenke, for a $1.86 billion stadium that would likely house the Rams, should they choose to move.
More importantly, Fabiani has hurt the Chargers’ position in San Diego as well. He has led the Chargers’ search for a new stadium for fourteen years, rejecting every stadium proposal the city government has presented, burning bridges with the mayor and other high-ranking officials in the process.
Relocation seems more and more to be the only option that would satisfy the team. Though both the Rams and Raiders have explored Los Angeles stadium options, only the Chargers, led by Fabiani, have explicitly stated that they will file relocation paperwork with the NFL as soon as they are able. This was essentially a middle finger to fans, as it came on Oct. 24, less than halfway through the season.
Fabiani and the Chargers have been alienating fans like this for years, as a recent town hall meeting attested. After booing Fabiani for nearly a full minute, many fans said that they wouldn’t travel north to see the Los Angeles Chargers. And they aren’t lying. San Diegans avoid going to LA like most avoid getting a colonoscopy — it’s necessary sometimes, but you try not to do it too often.
If the Chargers can’t relocate, losing their current share of the Los Angeles market will be the least of their worries. Because of Fabiani’s antagonism, they’ll also be trapped in a city that resents them, losing them a sizable portion of their current market as well, either to the new LA team or to surfing, hiking or another more appealing Sunday activity than watching football.
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