Chargers’ saga at a crucial juncture

ChargersSan Diego officials meet with an NFL team owners committee Monday in Chicago in what could be the decisive meeting of the summer related to whether the Chargers will move to Los Angeles. The Spanos family, owner of the team, says it doesn’t believe San Diego’s $1.1 billion stadium plan is even remotely achievable in coming years. Mayor Kevin Faulconer and many city leaders imply that the Chargers have no interest in staying in San Diego, no matter how good a deal or a stadium they can get, and are sure to warn the NFL of how bad it will look to abandon a big city that has strongly supported the team for five decades-plus.

In their coverage, both the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Voice of San Diego don’t appear to think much of the city’s chances. In the U-T’s opinion pages, former Sports Illustrated and USA Today writer Jill Lieber Steeg — a San Diego resident who is married to former NFL executive Jim Steeg, who still has good sources within the league — offered this brutal assessment:

Here is the cold, hard truth, San Diego: You are not the Chargers’ first choice. The Chargers want Los Angeles in the worst way. What can San Diego officials say or do on Monday to keep the team here? NOTHING. …

‘Planning to sneak out of town’

Steeg endorses the theory that the Chargers have not acted in good faith:

When the mayor tried to engage the team in stadium discussions, Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Spanos, told Faulconer to sit tight, that there was no sense of urgency. It is clear now why the Chargers were so quiet: They were planning to sneak out of town and move to Carson. They had hoped to demonstrate to the NFL that there was no interest in retaining them in San Diego.


But the mayor threw a monkey wrench into their plans. He announced in his State of the City address Jan. 14 that he was forming a task force of civic leaders to help develop the first “real plan” to build a new stadium and keep the team in San Diego.



From that moment on, Fabiani, who presumably conveys the thoughts, values and ethics of team ownership, has adopted a scorched earth strategy to get the team out of town. He has tried to manipulate the media and bloggers, unleashing texts and emails written in legalese with incredible ferocity and in great abundance, seemingly around the clock. He has leaked documents prior to important meetings with the Citizens’ Stadium Advisory Group (CSAG) and Eric Grubman, the NFL’s executive vice-president and Los Angeles-point person. And he has ridiculed, attacked and abused some of San Diego’s icons and civic-minded citizens, including Convention Center Chair Steve Cushman, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, the mayor, CSAG and the Padres, insinuating through a media channel the baseball team was a roadblock in the Chargers getting a downtown stadium. The thought may be it would impact Petco Park for parking and compete for revenue-generating events.

‘The Chargers will not be on board’

The Voice of San Diego is also skeptical the city has a chance of keeping the team, for several reasons. Here is one:

[For the city’s] plan to work — for a public vote to be possible in January, in time to inform the NFL before it decides which team gets to move to Los Angeles — the San Diego City Council would need to begin talking about it in mid-September. And the mayor has said he won’t go forward with that unless the Chargers are on board. Thus, the Chargers would have to be on board by then.


The team would have to be fully invested in the effort. A successful campaign in that short of a time frame would require the team’s money as well.


The Chargers will not be on board by then, though. The moment the team signals that it is 100 percent committed to getting the mayor’s plan done and passed through voters, Carson leaders will likely drop their push. What’s more, NFL staff is not allowed to work with a city like Carson if a team isn’t leading.


The team would essentially have to give up its push for Los Angeles in about a month. All based on the promise … that a majority of San Diegans is willing to support the mayor’s plan.

Selling tickets for a team to be named later

There remain observers who think the Chargers will be stuck in San Diego, whatever their hopes for Los Angeles. The owner of the St. Louis Rams, billionaire Stan Groenke, has a much clearer and easier path to building a privately funded stadium for his team in Inglewood than the Chargers and the Raiders do for building a jointly used stadium in Carson, where financing details remain murky.

But one thing is playing: The NFL is eager to get started in Los Angeles. Fox Sports reported on Friday that team owners were to discuss the possibility of selling season tickets for the 2016 regular season for a Los Angeles team — without even knowing which team or teams will have relocated.

Attention, Rams, Raiders and Chargers fans: You might soon be able to get in line for tickets for your team’s home games next year in Los Angeles.

Even before it’s decided whether your team will actually move there. Sources have told FOX Sports that, at next Tuesday’s special meeting in Illinois, NFL owners will discuss implementing a program to allow fans to make deposits to get on a waiting list for tickets at a temporary stadium in L.A. before the end of the calendar year.

The goal would be to start building a season-ticket base for the 2016 season now, rather than waiting until it’s clear which, and how many, teams will be making the move.

This suggests the San Diego argument that allowing the team to relocate would make the league look bad isn’t likely to have much impact — and that the NFL, as Steeg says of the Spanos family, “wants Los Angeles in the worst way.”

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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