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Chargers’ Move To LA Highlights How Hollow Modern NFL Has Grown

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When the Rams moved back to LA a year ago, they did so under the guise of a team returning home. The decision for the Chargers to join them in LA should eviscerate any credibility that the move was designed just to help the NFL and its owners.

The proposed City of Champions Stadium, future home of the LA Rams and LA Chargers
The proposed City of Champions Stadium, future home of the LA Rams and LA Chargers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

[The San Diego Chargers’ decision to relocate to Los Angeles] was sad and dire and unprecedented in Roger Goodell's decade as commissioner: An owner unwillingly moving a team to a city that doesn't seem to want it, sharing a stadium with an owner, Stan Kroenke, who doesn't want to split it, witnessed and engineered by a group of owners whose sympathy only goes so far.

Yesterday, we saw the unabated avarice of the NFL unmasked as the Chargers announced they would be relocating to Los Angeles for the 2017 NFL Season, a move that nobody wants forced by a paradigm the league has to hold to enforce what it sees as infallible power.

How much more money can they make? Doesn’t matter. At what cost? Matters even less.

Money. More. Power. More. Now. Go.

And so, as ESPN’s Seth Wickersham summarized in his piece quoted above, the relocation of the Chargers wasn’t something any party definitively wanted. The problem? Who wanted to pay for it less.

The city of San Diego was unable to pass a vote that would allocate hundreds of millions of dollars of public money to build the Chargers a new stadium. Because of that, and because the NFL tried to pressure the city into doing so by forcing a timeline on them to join the Rams in LA at the estimated $2.6b complex Rams owner Stan Kroenke is self-funding, the Chargers will abandon their home for more than the last half century.

You can see the paradigm playing out across the NFL, and to a slightly lesser degree, across American professional sports.

Because Kroenke could fund his multi-use site without public money, the NFL saw it as their best chance to capitalize on returning to the US’ second-biggest market. That St. Louis had finagled a path to cobble together hundreds of millions of dollars of public funding without a vote didn’t matter in scale to the LA solution. The Minnesota Vikings dangled LA in front of the state legislature before extracting $678m of taxpayer money without a public vote. Oh, and don’t forget the secret operations the NFL is demanding to put on the Super Bowl there in a year which aren’t going to come cost free. Atlanta was squeezed on both sides by new stadia for their NFL and MLB tenants that will likely combine to cost taxpayers more than $1b.

With all this money being drawn from public coffers, it’s easy to see how callous the NFL and their lesser peers are. What should be pointed out again though is that Stan Kroenke shouldn’t be seen as being immune from those charges despite funding the City of Champions site.

If anything, he’s now at the point for the growing perception of the NFL at large:

The owners will be viewed as vessels of greed; Spanos will be the one who in the end decided to pull the plug on a cherished home, his legacy a sunburned version of Art Modell's. But the lingering conflict goes beyond the relocations, beyond the logistics and into an area that is tougher to navigate if not solve, because there is no clear solution: What if the NFL simply matters less?

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Now Los Angeles, which for two decades watched the weekend's two best games on TV, will watch the Rams and the Chargers. Owners publicly are bullish about Los Angeles as a two-team town; privately they're not so sure -- especially because owners don't want the one team that would do best there, the Raiders, to return to their old home...

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Professional football is not only accustomed to power; it's accustomed to being vital. And it's accustomed to exercising its power because it is so vital. The NFL is still powerful and vital, more than any American sports league.

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The NFL is likely force-feeding a pair of bad teams to a market that was fine without it for two decades; it is consolidating at a moment when its primary goal is global expansion.

Those quotes also come from Wickersham’s piece which, obviously, I recommend reading today in light of the Chargers’ move.

In 2019, Los Angeles will see a game-changing facility open, a complex that exceeds contemporary norms. Rams Owner Stan Kroenke will own not just an NFL stadium, but an entire self-contained city. Just like the Chargers’ purposeful neglect of their fan base, Kroenke didn’t move the Rams for the fans. He’s not building his palace for them either.

He’s just helping lead a charge of financial expansion and legislative extortion that isn’t constrained by the borders of the United States.

That’s not something Los Angeles Rams should be proud of, even if it did bring the team they root for home.