The Terminator May Terminate an NFL Franchise
Last week, California Governor Arnold (Terminator) Schwarzenegger signed a bill allowing the construction of the new 75,000 seat ultra-luxury football stadium to be built by potential bidder, Majestic Realty Co.
Only they are not bidders, but thieves.
Majestic has publicly stated they are not interested in bidding for an expansion franchise but wants to steal an existing franchise from another city. They have seven known targets, perhaps more: Buffalo, Jacksonville, Minnesota, St. Louis, Oakland, San Francisco, and San Diego.
That's bad news not only for fans in those cities, but for fans of every sport in North America.
Given the NFL's burning desire to get back into the second largest market in the United States at any cost, it's unlikely to put up any resistance to Majestic's intentions, another slap in the face to the average fan of every sport in North America.
I say every sport, because this larceny will discourage building any new sports facilities, make governments hesitate before pledging public funds for these projects, and discourage grass root support for new teams.
Consider St. Louis, which is now the current home of the old Los Angeles Rams. They were once the home of the Arizona Cardinals but left for Phoenix in 1988 when the owners could not get a new stadium built.
After a few years, $280 million was spent to build the current domed stadium which can hold 70,000 people. The Rams arrived soon after.
If the Rams go back to Los Angeles, what does that mean for the $280 million including any taxpayer dollars that was spent? It will have been wasted.
That's true for any publicly funded sports facility for any sport. Money that could have been given to food banks or some other worthy cause was spent on a league that turned its arrogant nose up when some prettier face came along.
If you are a taxpayer, would you want your money spent this way?
If you are a sports fan, would you want to invest your emotions and your time and money on a team that may leave town at any moment or blackmail you for an even more luxurious facility?
The new Los Angeles stadium is not a "people's" stadium. It is one of the new kind of stadiums being built like Yankee Stadium or Dallas Stadium, facilities built with the rich and the corporations in mind.
The situation with Los Angeles has especially bitter ironies.
When the Rams and Raiders left in 1994, Los Angeles refused to whine and mourn like other cities like Oakland, Houston, Cleveland, etc. did when their NFL franchises were lost.
Los Angeles only yawned and there has been little active attempt to get a team back until now. In Los Angeles, the movie star, not the sports figure is king. Los Angeles is the only city to stand up to the NFL's arrogance.
The NFL has never forgotten the insult, the only blemish on its spectacular rise since the 1960s. They've always yearned to get back to Los Angeles, the second largest market in the United States.
Ideally, they want two franchises there like the other major professional sports, but for now they'll settle for one.
The NFL could head off this crisis by awarding Los Angeles an expansion franchise and start its path toward becoming a 40 team league, the next symmetrical number.
If they want to pair Los Angeles with another expansion team, that's fine. In an earlier article on this subject, I listed at least eleven contenders. Picking one from the best three, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Portland shouldn't be hard.
But I doubt if the arrogant NFL will do the honorable thing. Through Majestic, they can now blackmail those cities into building stadiums like Dallas, perhaps at taxpayers' expense, or have them face losing their teams.
This is an arrogant league that lives in its own rarefied atmosphere. It has allowed so many of its teams to move without resistance in the past when someone offered even more unrealistic sums of money for a franchise. Gary Bettman, the defender of money-losing Phoenix, you're heading the wrong league.
This is a league that refuses to modify its blackout policy, even with a job recession on, that allows another team (Buffalo) to play in another city because it has a wealthier market, that despises foreigners by charging outrageous ticket prices if it chooses to play a game in a local facility. The NFL has no loyalty to the fans who support it.
As to which team will move, I doubt if it will be the Rams which left an image of failure and incompetence behind when they left fifteen years ago.
The cruelest choice would be to move the 49ers from San Francisco. Los Angeles would like nothing better than to stick it to its arch rival city that heaped so many football humiliations on them in the 1980s. But the Los Angeles 49ers?
Minnesota? The Los Angeles Vikings? That's too jarring too.
So the other four are probably the leading choices.
A renamed Bills shifted from Buffalo is a probable choice. They already play one game in Canada's most glamorous market, Toronto. The NFL won't shed any tears for unglamorous Buffalo.
Oakland is another leading city. Al Davis has had wet dreams fantasizing about a stadium like Los Angeles. He's done it once and he won't hesitate to move the Raiders to Los Angeles again. And the Raiders have a sexy image that resonates with Hollywood's elite. So much for the image of a tough team from a tough town.
San Diego, the poor man's Los Angeles would be a top contender especially since it doesn't have to move far to its new home.
Finally there is Jacksonville, a city that doesn't sell out and is the least sexy of Florida's teams.
But thanks to the Terminator, fans in those cities won't sleep easily until this is over. Which franchise will be terminated? Let the piracy begin!
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