By Steven Keehner
Skateboarding, surfing, and incredible music: these are just a few things associated with Los Angeles. But just one year after the city of St. Louis was left without an NFL team, San Diego has also fallen into a nearly identical situation. On January 12th, 2017, the Chargers’ ownership group announced the relocation of the team to Los Angeles. This has given "The City of Angels" their second NFL franchise in as many years. This move has also come as a shock to many NFL fans, myself included. I almost immediately thought: why is a city that has struggled to care about the Rams moving to Los Angeles getting another team?
If you weren’t aware, this isn’t the first time the Chargers will be playing in Los Angeles. Back in 1961, the Chargers spent their first season in LA. The next season saw them move to their now former home, San Diego. However, this wasn’t the first time that Los Angeles had a major football team. The Rams, who moved from Cleveland to LA in 1946, had already been in the city for 15 seasons. Following San Diego's departure, LA would later get another NFL franchise in 1981, with the then-Oakland Raiders making the move to Los Angeles.
These partnerships didn’t last forever. In 1995, both franchises packed up their bags and left for Oakland and St. Louis, respectively. This was due to the city not wanting to pay for stadiums/stadium upgrades. So for the next 20 years, the city of LA had no NFL team to call it’s own. This was until Stan Kroenke. The Rams' Owner attempted to bully the city of St. Louis into building his team a new stadium, which they refused to do. But back to the question at hand, why would the NFL allow the Chargers to move to Los Angeles?
Moving into a bigger market?
The first answer I contemplated was that it would add more value to the franchise. The Rams are a good example of this notion; according to Business Insider, “The value of the Rams will nearly triple from their move to the Los Angeles, from something closer to the $930 million valuation in 2014 to approximately $3 billion.” The Rams went from one of the least valuable franchises in St. Louis, to one of the most valuable ones since moving to LA.
But while the value of the franchise went up, the support of the team didn’t, as reported by ProFootballTalk of NBC Sports. “The NFL returned to America’s second-biggest television market after a two-decade absence in 2016, but that didn’t result in more people watching the NFL. In fact, the NFL on FOX, the network that shows most of the Rams’ games, saw a decrease in its TV ratings in the Los Angeles market for 2016. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the 12 games shown by the Los Angeles FOX affiliate in 2016 reached, on average, 8 percent of L.A. households. In 2015, the Los Angeles FOX affiliate reached, on average, 8.3 percent of LA households (The one Sunday Rams game shown on CBS this season also declined from CBS’s 2015 L.A. average.)”
If it wasn’t clear the city of LA doesn’t care about the Rams, look at its stadium during games. They have been struggling to fill up the “Coliseum.” The issue with teams in big cities is the incredibly fickle fans that tend to live there. They only want to see teams that win ie: Warriors, Lakers, Angels, Dodgers, etc. So, it isn’t surprising that nobody wants to watch a “Middle-school offense” as described by RB Todd Gurley.
To recapture the hearts of former fans?
My next thought was that maybe the Chargers are trying to grab a piece of the large "unclaimed" Los Angeles population by moving a team that once played in LA, back to LA. This is much like the Rams are trying to do now. There is another huge problem with this idea: Los Angeles is full of Oakland Raiders fans. As reported in the LA Times, “It would have to then be clear that the Raiders could not make it work in Oakland. At that point, NFL owners should realize that while Las Vegas is a nice attraction, Los Angeles is the only other logical home for the Raiders, besides Oakland, because in many ways it already is their home.” If you watched the Oakland Raiders vs Los Angeles Rams game earlier this season, you wouldn’t have guessed that the Rams were the home team. This was due to the large flood of black and silver seen throughout the stands.
The truth is that the Raiders have been able to attract a fan base in Los Angeles that very few franchises have been able to attract in general. As mentioned in the same LA Times article, “‘It’s a culture thing around here, and it’s been that way for a while,’ said Tony, 55. ‘It’s an inner-city culture, black, Latino, everyone following the mystique of an underdog team, something many people in all parts of Los Angeles can relate to.’” It’s obvious that Los Angeles still has the fan base to support the team, even after all these years after returning to Oakland. And with the Raiders rumored to move to Las Vegas, or even San Diego, it leads to the question of why did the NFL not think this through at all? Out of all three former LA teams, they chose the two that nobody in the city actually cares about. The Raiders are young, exciting, and unlike the Chargers and Rams, they don’t suck.
All this talk about which teams should and shouldn’t be in LA leads to another question: does Los Angeles even care about football? In a poll taken by SurveyUSA, only 37% mentioned that an NFL team coming to LA was “very important” to them. The USC Trojans have been the go to team for almost 20 years and that may be a difficult mold to break for the Rams’ and Chargers’ ownership groups. While of course this number could change in the future, how big are you going to be able to grow two mediocre teams' fan bases while already being in a city that supports other teams?
So why is Los Angeles, a city that shows no interest in even one NFL team, getting a second one? Meanwhile two markets that loved their teams in St. Louis and San Diego are losing theirs? Is it because it is more profitable for a team to be in LA? Or is it because another NFL owner blackmailed a team into relocation? For a league that often says “Football is Family,” it is shocking how often they fail to live up to that motto. Whether it’s the Oilers, Browns, and Colts moving in the 90’s, or the Los Angeles situation now, time and time again the NFL has gone on to show us that they don’t care about their fans, or better yet their players; they care about filling their pockets. As best said by the LA Times following the announcement of the Chargers' “homecoming”: "We Don't Want You."