National Football League owners voted Tuesday to approve the relocation bid of the St. Louis Rams, with the San Diego Chargers given the option to join them, which paves the way for the return of pro football to the Los Angeles area in 2016.
The NFL announced the Rams will move to Inglewood, California, while the Chargers have the option to move through Jan. 16, 2017. If the Chargers don't move by that time, the Oakland Raiders will have "preference," per Schefter. Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times reported the owners' final vote was 30-2.
The deadline for the Chargers to decide where they will play in 2016 is the NFL meetings scheduled to take place from March 20–23, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reported the Raiders agreed to exit an "exclusive partnership" with the Chargers, paving the way to this landmark agreement.
“Today is a fresh start,” San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer said, per Eric Williams of ESPN. “I sincerely believe we can create a successful project for both the Chargers organization and the region, if we have a sincere effort to work together.”
ESPN's Jim Trotter indicated if the Chargers decide to move, they must do so prior to March 9, as uncertainty would impact free agency.
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said the Chargers or Raiders will get an additional $100 million toward a stadium if they remain in their respective cities, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.
"It's not easy to do these things. They are purposely made hard. ... It'll be a lot of fun for me [to build in L.A.]," Rams owner Stan Kroenke said, per Rapoport.
Trotter reported the percent of stadium costs "must be put in escrow" and Kroenke is expected to pay $1.05 billion.
"Inglewood has been transformed," Mayor James Butts said. "Welcome Rams, Stan and the NFL. We're going to Disneyland."
Rand Getlin of NFL Network provided renderings of the Rams' new Los Angeles stadium:
Rand Getlin @Rand_Getlin
The renderings for the new Los Angeles Rams stadium are beautiful. https://t.co/mgEMVgSSdW1/13/2016, 7:21:11 PM
When asked if the Raiders will definitely be in Oakland next season, Raiders owner Mark Davis responded, "No," adding they don't have a lease with the O.co Coliseum, per Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com.
Scott Bair of CSN Bay Area passed along a statement from the Raiders:
Scott Bair @BairNBCS
Statement from the Raiders: https://t.co/QUZ2KO7kzM1/13/2016, 3:52:45 AM
Los Angeles is the United States' second-largest television market behind only New York City, which made it an attractive target for the league at a time when several organizations were considering new homes. It's the first time since 1994 a franchise will be based in the city.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in October that he believed there was a strong fanbase waiting in L.A. but only wanted to have a team there if a solution couldn't be reached in the other cities in question, per ESPN.com.
"We've been 20 years not in the Los Angeles market," Goodell said. "[Relocation to Los Angeles] would be a huge plus for fans. There are 20 million fans in that market that would love to have a franchise. But we've got to do this responsibly. There's a process, and we're going through that process."
Despite those efforts, the Chargers, Raiders and Rams all officially filed their relocation plans with the league in early January, which set the stage for the owners' vote.
Originally, the Rams were working on a solo move to Inglewood while the Raiders and Chargers put together a shared plan for Carson. The situation became muddled during the lead-up to the vote, however, as the Rams and Chargers joined forces on a stadium project.
The Rams, who first played in Cleveland, called the Los Angeles area home for nearly five decades from 1946 to 1994, including time spent in Anaheim. Now, the franchise is returning after 21 years in St. Louis, a period highlighted by a Super Bowl victory in the 1999 season.
The decision to approve the Rams' proposal comes despite an effort from the city of St. Louis to keep the organization from moving. Jim Suhr of the Associated Press reported a task force created by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon put forward a $1.1 billion stadium plan in late December.
Ian Gordon of Mother Jones highlighted the financial impact still that still remains for St. Louis:
Ian Gordon @id_gordon
Stop using public funds to finance sports stadiums, St. Louis edition: https://t.co/oCaOBBGFdS https://t.co/Nf4AbwluRS1/13/2016, 10:02:48 PM
"St. Louis has faithfully supported the NFL and, in particular, the St. Louis Rams since their arrival in 1995," task force co-chairman Bob Blitz said. "Our proposal this week to the NFL personifies that support."
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said the city has no plans to lure another NFL team to the city, per Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk.
Apparently, the owners didn't feel those plans laid a strong enough foundation to ensure a successful long-term stay in St. Louis. Additionally, Kroenke had already been planning a $1.8 billion stadium for Inglewood.
So the Rams, who finished last in the league in average home attendance in 2015, according to ESPN.com, are heading back to L.A.
The Chargers spent their inaugural season in Los Angeles in 1960 before moving to San Diego the next year. They captured the AFL championship in 1963 and reached the Super Bowl in 1994, losing to the San Francisco 49ers.
Chargers players had a feeling this day could be on the horizon heading into their Dec. 20 home finale. Ricky Henne of the team's official website passed along comments from quarterback Philip Rivers following a 30-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins, which wound up being the Chargers' best performance in an otherwise forgettable 4-12 season:
The whole day was special. I know it's one of those (where) we still don't know; maybe we'll get to trot back out there and play again. But, it was the only way to treat it as if it was the last time. I was back and forth really the whole day, as far as my emotions getting the best of me. I let my mind wander to people, memories and games.
The four wins marked the Chargers' lowest total since 2003, and they have made only one playoff appearance over the past six seasons. The team's home attendance percentage has ranked in the bottom 11 in the league each of those years, according to ESPN.com. But it remains to be seen whether the Chargers will join the Rams in Los Angeles.
The NFL would undoubtedly celebrate a two-team return to the nation's second-biggest market, but relocating franchises can alienate fans.
It's also fair to wonder whether the latest attempt to get pro football to stick in Los Angeles will be as successful as the NFL is hoping. Bill Simmons of HBO joked in early January, "It's amazing how little everyone in L.A. cares about getting two NFL teams. This should go great."
That said, given the size of the market, the league was always going to view the city as its preferred destination for relocation. Now, the owners have given the go-ahead to make it happen.