San Diego football fans caught a glimpse at the Chargers’ possible future on Saturday–and many didn’t like it.
Emotions were already running high at the Chargers’ FanFest, the annual training camp practice held in front of fans at Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley. The team said 17,000 attended this year’s event, collecting autographs, snapping pictures and enjoying a team scrimmage just before the Chargers begin their preseason on August 13.
But the team’s presence inside Qualcomm was its first since owner Dean Spanos announced a partnership with Raiders owner Mark Davis to build a $1.7 billion stadium in Carson.
Five-time all-Pro safety Eric Weddle, a fan favorite who could leave the team next year after his contract expires, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that this year’s event was more emotional than usual.
“Excitement level was definitely up,” Weddle told the paper. “It was pretty awesome.”
But the fans in attendance got a bleak look at what could be the team’s future when a small group of fans unfurled a banner that read “Los Angeles Area Chargers:”
The Union-Tribune‘s Matt Calkins wrote that the banner “reeked of disrespect and instigation.”
“Pretty sure [a sign that read] ‘Ryan Leaf for Mayor’ would have been more well-received,” Calkins wrote in a piece called, “San Diegans get slapped in the face.”
The fans were similarly unhappy.
“I’m about to rip that sign down,” one fan told the paper.
Contrary to Weddle’s assessment of an increased excitement level inside the stadium, Calkins writes that the banner “sucked the energy out of a FanFest crowd that can’t escape reality.”
While the fans consider the prospect of their beloved Bolts leaving for “greener pastures” in Los Angeles, the team isn’t letting talk of a move get to them. Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, whose contract also expires next season, told Bleacher Report that the team is focused strictly on football.
“I think when there’s not a lot of football going on, or it’s early in the offseason, you talk about it,” Rivers told the outlet. “But now, it’s just not a conversation [in the locker room]. It’s just not a topic in there. I think it’s just what you say: it’s football and there’s a lot of excitement about this year because we do know where we’re going to be this year, and guys are just saying, ‘That will happen when it happens.'”