The Rams head back to Los Angeles after 21 seasons in St. Louis—and the Chargers may eventually join them in a new stadium in Inglewood should San Diego’s voters not support major tax funding for a new venue.
The 32 NFL owners voted 30-2 to approve the Rams move on Tuesday despite a 5-1 recommendation earlier in the day that endorsed a competing Carson stadium that looked to house the Chargers and Raiders. The owners rejected the idea of a $1.9 billion stadium housing only the Rams earlier in the day. The stadium appealed. But the idea of necessarily excluding another prospective Los Angeles franchise did not pass muster with owners eager to exploit the Los Angeles market with two possible teams. So, the owners invited the Chargers to join the Rams in Inglewood should their stadium situation not work out in San Diego. The NFL granted the franchise a year from this Friday to make the decision.
Should the Chargers not like the idea of sharing the Inglewood digs with the Rams or San Diego’s voters balk at picking up a major part of the stadium tab, the owners plan to extend an invitation to the Oakland Raiders.
For the two teams possibly losing out on relocation to as lucrative a market as Los Angeles, the owners offered financial concessions. “The membership will make available,” the owners resolved, “in addition to any other stadium financing support provided under the G4 program, an additional $100 million in league financial support to each of the Raiders and Chargers for a new stadium in each of their respective current home markets, provided that a binding stadium agreement is made and approved by the member clubs no later than January 15, 2017, subject to being extended by the Finance and Stadium Committees.”
“Relocation is a painful process,” Roger Goodell reflected. “It’s painful for the fans, for the communities, for teams, for the league in general. Stability is something we’ve taken a great deal of pride in.” The commissioner, citing excitement in Southern California and disappointment in Missouri, calls the return to Los Angeles a “bittersweet moment.”
The Rams initially moved from Cleveland to Los Angeles in 1946, with their move into the Coliseum historically forcing the NFL to end a de facto ban on black players in the league. Local officials eager to see star African-American players from UCLA compete professionally, and disgust with the exclusion of talented athletes from the league for discriminatory reasons that bewildered Southern Californians, propelled the government owners of the Coliseum to pressure the NFL to include black players, who had competed in the league at its inception. In 1948, the Rams became the first NFL team to place an insignia on their helmets and employed Pete Rozelle, a savvy team executive who later presided over the NFL as its longest serving commissioner during the period when the league surpassed baseball in popularity.
The Chargers also boast Los Angeles roots, albeit weaker ones, by competing in Los Angeles for their first season in the American Football League. The Raiders played in the Coliseum during their stay in Los Angeles from the early 1980s until the mid 1990s.
The move back into the nation’s second largest media market comes as part of a broader plan for the NFL to increase its revenues to $25 billion by 2027.