Rams headed back to Los Angeles Chargers May Follow
HOUSTON — The Rams are moving back to Los Angeles — and might be doing so with company. The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders might end up staying where they are, but leadership of the teams didn’t come close to making that commitment Tuesday night. One of them could be headed to L.A. too. A long day of votes and re-votes ended with 30 of 32 NFL owners approving Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s ambitious plan to move his team from St. Louis to the site of the old Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood, California, about 10 miles from downtown L.A. The Chargers have a yearlong option to join the Rams, followed by the Raiders if the San Diego franchise declines. The Raiders and Chargers submitted a competing proposal to share a new stadium in Carson, California, but that option also did not garner the 24 votes needed for approval. After another negotiating session in the afternoon, Kroenke’s $1.8 billion project prevailed. The decision ends the NFL’s 21-year absence from the nation’s second-largest media market. “I often said over those 21 years what we need is a great facility,” commissioner Roger Goodell said at a news conference about 11 hours after the meetings began. “I think what happened over the last years is we had two outstanding opportunities. Both of these stadium projects were outstanding.” “Today, with the NFL returning home, Los Angeles cements itself as the epicenter of the sports world,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. “We cannot wait to welcome the Rams, and perhaps others soon, as they join a storied lineup of professional franchises, collegiate powerhouses and sports media companies.” Former Rams running back Eric Dickerson took to Twitter to celebrate the franchise’s return to Los Angeles.
Welcome Home! #LARams2016
— Eric Dickerson (@EricDickerson) January 13, 2016
The fee to move a team is $550 million. Kroenke has the option to either pay that all at once or with 10 annual installments of $64 million, but a source told ESPN’s Jim Trotter that Kroenke will pay it in a lump sum. Chargers chairman Dean Spanos was asked if he intended to play in Los Angeles in 2016. “I’m going to take a day off tomorrow, I think,” Spanos said. “This has really been excruciating for everyone. It’s very difficult to say right now [that] I’m going to do this or do that.” Oakland is still in debt from a renovation 20 years ago, when the Raiders moved back from Los Angeles. City officials have said they won’t seek help from taxpayers with a new stadium, and they asked the NFL for more time to develop a project in response to the Raiders’ relocation plan. The NFL acquiesced. “We’ll see where the Raider nation ends up,” said owner Mark Davis, who was equally noncommittal in comments to reporters. “We’ll be working really hard to find us a home. So for our fans and everything else, don’t feel bad. We’ll get it right.” Ray Perez, a 28-year-old Raiders fan from Sacramento who goes by the moniker Dr. Death, traveled to the Houston meeting in his usual Black Hole garb and was cautiously optimistic after hearing the news. “I will not be completely, fully thrilled until the ink dries on paper and we know we’re staying in Oakland in a new stadium,” Perez said. “I’m very happy, very happy. But I’m not going to be overjoyed until we sign a stadium deal to keep the Raiders in Oakland with our own stadium.” The Chargers play 120 miles south of Inglewood at aging Qualcomm Stadium. The Raiders played in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994 and currently split a facility with MLB’s Oakland Athletics, the only remaining combination stadium. The Rams, who were based in the L.A. area from 1946 to 1994, will likely have a temporary home at the Los Angeles Coliseum until the new stadium is ready in 2019. It’s unclear where the Chargers would play temporarily if they move. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer says the city and county will negotiate with the Chargers but “are not interested in a charade by the Chargers if they continue to pursue Los Angeles.” St. Louis had a plan for an open-air, $1.1 billion stadium along the Mississippi River north of the Gateway Arch to replace the Edward Jones Dome. Kroenke mostly ignored the city’s overtures, and Goodell said the requirement of at least $200 million from the NFL was double what league policy allowed. Kroenke also said St. Louis’ economy makes it difficult for an NFL franchise to thrive there. “We understand the emotions involved of our fans,” he said. “We made a decision and worked long and hard at the various alternatives. When they didn’t succeed, we worked this one to this point.” This is the second time the city has lost an NFL franchise. The St. Louis Cardinals left for Arizona in 1988. The Rams have moved twice. The franchise called Cleveland home from 1937 to 1945, before moving to Los Angeles for the first time in 1946. The team opened play in St. Louis in 1995. At each stop, the team has won one league championship. The most recent NFL franchise to move was the Houston Oilers, who, led by current Rams coach and California native Jeff Fisher, relocated to Tennessee in 1997. The Raiders and Rams both left Los Angeles after the 1994 season. “It is troubling that the league would allow for the relocation of a team when a home market has worked in good faith and presented a strong and viable proposal,” Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said. “We will review the NFL’s decision thoroughly before determining what next steps to take.” Goodell offered the first signal that the NFL might be intent on making a decision it delayed six weeks earlier. Days before the Houston meeting, he issued a report to all 32 teams that deemed the venues in all three cities inadequate and questioned the stadium proposals.
The relocation agreement gives the Chargers and Raiders $100 million each if they build new stadiums in their current markets, but a stadium plan is required within a year. The Rams have to wait at least a year to negotiate naming rights on the new stadium, unless they reach a deal with a second team before then. “It’s been going on for like two years that we’ve been working on this,” said Houston owner Bob McNair, who beat Los Angeles in a bid for an expansion franchise that debuted in 2002. “We’re quite pleased with the outcome and look forward to the development of a real NFL campus out in Los Angeles.” Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.