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Rams Returning to Los Angeles; Chargers May Join Them

bring-back-the-rams

The Rams, which played in Los Angeles for 48 years before moving to St. Louis in 1994, are headed back. They may have company. ESPN:

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.”

[…]

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.”

This will be St. Louis’ second time losing an NFL franchise—both within my memory. The Cardinals, who had been the Gateway City since 1960, moved to Phoenix in 1988.

On the one hand, franchise relocation is simply a fact of life. This will be the fourth move for the Rams, who were founded in Cleveland. The Cardinals were founded in Chicago. Wikipedia lists the following “significant” moves just for the NFL:

  • Decatur Staleys: to Chicago in 1921 (renamed the Chicago Bears in 1922)
  • Toledo Maroons: to Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1924
  • Cleveland Bulldogs: to Detroit as the Wolverines in 1928
  • Pottsville Maroons: to Boston as the Bulldogs in 1929
  • Dayton Triangles: to Brooklyn as the Dodgers in 1930 (renamed Brooklyn Tigers in 1944)
  • Portsmouth Spartans: to Detroit as the Lions in 1934
  • Boston Redskins: to Washington, D.C. in 1937
  • Cleveland Rams: to Los Angeles in 1946
  • Chicago Cardinals: to St. Louis in 1960
  • Los Angeles Chargers: to San Diego in 1961 while in the American Football League (AFL)
  • Dallas Texans: to Kansas City, Missouri as the Kansas City Chiefs in 1963 while in the AFL
  • Oakland Raiders: to Los Angeles in 1982
  • Baltimore Colts: to Indianapolis in 1984
  • St. Louis Cardinals: to Phoenix in 1988 (renamed Arizona Cardinals in 1994)
  • Los Angeles Rams: to St. Louis in 1995
  • Los Angeles Raiders: back to Oakland in 1995
  • Cleveland Browns: to Baltimore in 1996 (renamed the Baltimore Ravens)
  • Houston Oilers: temporarily to Memphis in 1997 as the Tennessee Oilers and permanently to Nashville in 1998 (renamed Tennessee Titans in 1999)
  • St. Louis Rams: back to Los Angeles in 2016

Eight of these moves have happened since I’ve been an NFL fan. The Rams account for two of those. The Chargers, who only spent one year in LA before moving to their current home, will almost certainly be joining the Rams.  If the don’t, get a shot at completing the Oakland to LA back to Oakland back to LA circuit.

That said, given the nature of sports fandom, these moves are brutal for the communities involved. St. Louis fans did a fantastic job of supporting both the football Cardinals and the Rams. Chargers fans, who have not so much as sniffed a Super Bowl, have been exceedingly loyal to their team. Alas, ownership in both cases demanded more taxpayer support for stadium projects than city leadership was willing to bear. Which, in both cases, is pretty significant; both cities made legitimate bids to fund modern facilities.

In the meantime, upstart teams with next to no community support—the Jacksonville Jaguars come to mind—are staying put. (Although in that case, I expect they’ll move to London eventually.)

Certainly, it makes sense for the League to have a team in the country’s second largest city. Having the Rams back somehow seems right to me—especially if they bring back their traditional uniforms. But it’s sad for St. Louis’ fan base to lose a team again. It’ll be even more heartbreaking if the Chargers leave San Diego after more than half a century.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. PJ says:

    I hope that one day San Francisco will have a NFL team again.

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  2. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Given the inherent absurdity of the “Waaah! My present stadium’s not fancy enough!” game the owners play, it makes a lot more sense for the Rams to be in LA than in St. Louis. I could never wrap my mouth around the words “St. Louis Rams” without wincing.

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  3. Mikey says:

    @PJ: Yeah, I think the new stadium is great, but Santa Clara is a bit of a trip from San Francisco–almost 45 miles. I can’t think of an NFL team with a stadium so far from the city for which the team is named.

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  4. DrDaveT says:

    St. Louis will lose its second NFL team in 28 years

    You said this a couple of times, but it’s an odd spin to choose. You could equally have said something like “St. Louis has had an NFL team for 57 of the past 66 years; Los Angeles has had an NFL team for just over half of those years, but no team for the past 21 years.” Kids in college today do not remember a time when LA had an NFL team.

    LA is the city that keeps losing teams; not St. Louis.

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  5. Tony W says:

    Spanos has an interesting problem with the Chargers. He can have the undivided attention of 2 million San Diegans and retain 55 years of history, or he can share a larger pie of Los Angeles and alienate a large percentage of loyal San Diego fans.

    I’m grabbing my popcorn to watch what happens.

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  6. Scott says:

    The Raiders have been playing footsie with San Antonio for the last couple of years. One local columnist likened it to being taken hostage by the NFL. I would only support such a move if there were no public monies involved except perhaps some roadwork. If the owners can own a team, then they can build and run their own stadium.

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  7. PJ says:

    @Mikey:

    Yeah, I think the new stadium is great, but Santa Clara is a bit of a trip from San Francisco–almost 45 miles. I can’t think of an NFL team with a stadium so far from the city for which the team is named.

    And that’s because there isn’t one
    The St. Louis Rams, on the other hand, was the fifth closest.

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  8. PJ says:

    Also, where can I bet on which team owner will be the first to threaten to move his team to St. Louis if the current city won’t buy him a new stadium?

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  9. Pete S says:

    @DrDaveT: As well, both St Louis teams were “lost” by other cities – Chicago and Los Angeles. The Rams had a longer history in LA when St Louis got them in 1995 than they have in St Louis now that LA is getting them back.

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  10. James Pearce says:

    The Rams returning to LA is a kind of homecoming, but big raspberries to any team shopping for taxpayer-funded stadiums. It is what it is, but such a clever trick, naming your football club after a city, giving the city and its residents a feeling of ownership over the club that they don’t actually have. Now you can live in Tierra Del Fuego and never miss a broadcast, newspaper article, or even a single game. Would the local market even matter if it weren’t for the question of subsidized stadiums?

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  11. Ron Beasley says:

    @James Pearce: Much of this constant shuffling would end if taxpayer funded venues would end. The wise voters in the Portland area have refused to approve bond measures to build a stadium. As a result we have no MLB or NFL team. We do have an NBA team but when the billionaire owner came to the city council saying he needed a new venue their reaction was then build one. He did. When the owner of the MLS team said an existing stadium needed to be upgraded they said fine but you pay for it. He did.

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  12. James Pearce says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    We do have an NBA team but when the billionaire owner came to the city council saying he needed a new venue their reaction was then build one. He did.

    You mean they said “if you build it, they will come” rather than “if they build it, you can continue milking them for fun and profit?” Good call.

    I was just reading a thing the other day about a policy the Broncos put into place for playoff tickets. They won’t sell them if you’re not buying them from certain approved zip codes (local ones, of course). The reason for this is that in ’05, when the Broncos faced the Steelers in the play-offs, a lot of Pittsburgh fans showed up in Denver and turned Invesco Field Mile High into a swirl of terrible towels.

    Now these weren’t casual fans, of course. They were fans who could afford to drop a few hundred bucks on playoff tickets and a few hundred more on travel arrangements. If it didn’t “look bad,” there would be no problem. These are the fans who provide the NFL with most of their revenue.

    Not the locals watching it for free on TV.

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  13. Ron Beasley says:

    @James Pearce: @James Pearce: The venue has proved to be a real money maker for Paul Allen. The Trailbalzers always sell out. In addition there are concerts, an occasional circus, the minor league hockey team and even more. The concessions alone put a lot of money in his pocket.
    Allen is from Seattle and now that Seattle no longer has an NBA team I’m sure he would like to move it there but he won’t because he owns the venue.

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  14. Moosebreath says:

    @James Pearce:

    “I was just reading a thing the other day about a policy the Broncos put into place for playoff tickets. They won’t sell them if you’re not buying them from certain approved zip codes (local ones, of course). The reason for this is that in ’05, when the Broncos faced the Steelers in the play-offs, a lot of Pittsburgh fans showed up in Denver and turned Invesco Field Mile High into a swirl of terrible towels.”

    A few years ago, the Washington Nationals did that for opening day, because in prior years, Phillies fans (who were in the middle of a multi-year streak of selling out all home games) bought about a third of the tickets. They clearly don’t do it for the rest of the year, as 2 years ago, I went to a Nationals vs. Pirates game, and there were about equal numbers of fans in our section for each team, including a group who paraded during the 7th inning stretch with a 20 foot wide Jolly Roger flag in support of the visitors.

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  15. Franklin says:

    Any time Los Angeles has a football team, I pretend it’s French. La Rams, La Raiders, etc.

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  16. Hal_10000 says:

    Much of this constant shuffling would end if taxpayer funded venues would end. The wise voters in the Portland area have refused to approve bond measures to build a stadium. As a result we have no MLB or NFL team. We do have an NBA team but when the billionaire owner came to the city council saying he needed a new venue their reaction was then build one. He did. When the owner of the MLS team said an existing stadium needed to be upgraded they said fine but you pay for it. He did.

    Agree with this 100%. The first mayor or governor who responds to the extortion demands with the political equivalent of a middle finger will be my hero. It’s insane for the taxpayers of broke cities to be paying out hundreds of millions to subsidized stadiums for billionaires that are attended almost exclusively by upper and upper middle class citizens.

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  17. bandit says:

    Chargers fans, who have not so much as sniffed a Super Bowl

    The Chargers played in SB XXIX

    http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/199501290sdg.htm

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  18. Mikey says:

    @Franklin: If you say it all in English, “The Los Angeles Angels” is “The The Angels Angels.”

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  19. EddieInCA says:

    I still wonder why the NFL and these teams think that the NFL will succeed in Los Angeles. The Raiders WON a Super Bowl while in Los Angeles and still played to a half-empty stadium. LA has always been a Dodgers/Lakers town. USC and UCLA only draw when they’re winning. The rest of the time, they’re playing the 1/2 empty stadiums. LA isn’t Green Bay, or Minneapolis, or Buffalo where there isn’t stuff do to in the Fall and Winter. In October, November and December in Los Angeles, I’m cycling, roller-blading, hiking, eating outside at the beach. Why the hell would I want to sit in traffic to go sit in a stadium on a gorgeous Sunday to watch the NFL? I can enjoy it better on my 70in 4K TV later off the DVR in the comfort of my living room – with replays, commentary, and slow-mo.

    There is a reason the Rams and Raiders BOTH left Los Angeles. There is a reason a very good Clippers team still draws less fans than a Lakers team that SUCKS. There is a reason that no one goes to LA Sparks games. The Kings won two Stanley Cups in three years, and still don’t draw enough fans, compared to other cities. There is too much stuff to do in LA.

    The LA public certainly wasn’t clamoring for an LA NFL Franchise. There was no public desire for it. My guess is that they’ll struggle for a few years, and then in less than a decade, they’ll be moving again. Probably to San Antonio, Portland, Oklahoma City.

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  20. Tyrell says:

    @Hal_10000: Too many times owners bully city officials into financing stadium improvements or they will move. City officials usually give in, all the while raising property taxes, cutting school funding, and reducing services. Let the luxury box owners pay for it. The average fan can’t afford the ticket prices, $10 parking, and $5 hot dogs.
    I go to a local small college games. Admission is $5, you can sit where you want, and you can take your own food and drinks in.

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  21. James Pearce says:

    @bandit:

    The Chargers played in SB XXIX

    Okay, so they have hardly sniffed a Super Bowl in twenty years.

    And how many coaches have they fired in that time? The Chargers are a poorly-run franchise that is consistently inconsistent. Sure they had a 14-2 season in 06, but in 00 they were 1-15.

    Of course, I’m spoiled. Since SB29, “my” Broncos have gone to 3 Super Bowls, and won 2 of them.

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  22. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT: The lost the Rams after refusing to fund a decent stadium in an era when every major market was willing to do so. I never really considered the Raiders an LA team, so don’t really consider their moving back to Oakland after a brief sojourn in LA as LA’s loss.

    @bandit: @James Pearce: I completely forgot about that one, possibly because they got blown out so badly and partly because they faded so quickly again. They’ve had two Hall of Fame caliber quarterbacks in Dan Fouts and Phillip Rivers but have never really put it together.

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  23. James Pearce says:

    @James Joyner:

    They’ve had two Hall of Fame caliber quarterbacks in Dan Fouts and Phillip Rivers but have never really put it together.

    Rivers as HOF caliber? I can look it up, but I’d bet he’s won as many play off games as Tim Tebow.

    Of course, as a Broncos homer, I would say that…

    (Speaking of, maybe Al Jazeera America is closing because they accused Peyton Manning of PEDs…..could be true!)

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  24. James Pearce says:

    @James Pearce:

    I can look it up, but I’d bet he’s won as many play off games as Tim Tebow.

    Looked it up. Rivers has 4 play off wins to Tebow’s 1.

    (Rivers overall playoff record is 4-5. He’s ranked at 48, behind Mark Sanchez and Colin Kaepernick, who are tied at 40.)

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  25. Scott says:

    @Tyrell:

    The average fan can’t afford the ticket prices, $10 parking, and $5 hot dogs.

    I’m with you, Tyrell. But your prices are out of date. To park at a Cowboys game costs $65. And yes, I do get a lot of entertainment for the buck from high school games and even our AA baseball team.

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  26. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    I never really considered the Raiders an LA team, so don’t really consider their moving back to Oakland after a brief sojourn in LA as LA’s loss.

    It’s not about you, James.

    Objectively, for a city the size of Los Angeles to keep shedding teams to smaller markets is a much bigger story than a city the size of St. Louis only managing to hang onto them for a few decades at a time. The miracle is that St. Louis has sustained multiple major-sport teams most of the time. The pathos is that LA doesn’t have multiple teams in every major sport, all the time, the way New York does.

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  27. Ron Beasley says:

    @EddieInCA: I agree that the Rams will fail in LA again and will move but I think you got the cities wrong. San Antonia I don’t really know enough about so it might be a possibility. OKC doesn’t have the market to support an NFL team, they can’t even fill the coliseum where their NBA team plays even when they are winning. I know a bit more about Portland. For starters the residents of the Portland area will never approve a bond measure for a stadium. While they do sell out the NBA and MLS games like OKC they simply don’t have the market to fill and NFL stadium. In a sense they already have an NFL team, the Seattle Seahawks. and there is not a big enough market to support 2 NFL teams that clolse together.

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  28. Jeremy says:

    @EddieInCA:

    The LA public certainly wasn’t clamoring for an LA NFL Franchise. There was no public desire for it. My guess is that they’ll struggle for a few years, and then in less than a decade, they’ll be moving again. Probably to San Antonio, Portland, Oklahoma City.

    Portland, Oregon, or Portland, Maine?

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  29. Tyrell says:

    How about Toronto, Calgary, or London ?

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