Top News from ESPN's Inside Look at the Rams, Chargers and NFL in Los Angeles

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistNovember 21, 2019

Aerial view of the SoFi Stadium, still under construction, future home of the Rams and Chargers in Inglewood, California on October 23, 2019. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)
DANIEL SLIM/Getty Images

The NFL's return to Los Angeles in 2017 has been a bumpy road for the league and the two franchises that call the city home.  

Per ESPN's Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr., the issues for the NFL, Rams and Chargers go far beyond anything happening between the lines on Sundays. 

Tension between Rams owner Stan Kroenke and Chargers owner Dean Spanos have been running high, with the two men "locked in a bitter fight" over a number of financial issues:

"Spanos felt burned and betrayed by the vote and the entire L.A. decision process, and therefore few expected him to exercise the tenancy option. But he did, and now these unequal partners are locked in a bitter fight, stoked by Kroenke's fury over cost overruns exceeding $3 billion, questions over the Chargers' long-term viability in the market, a lawsuit seeking billions over Kroenke's departure from St. Louis that has engulfed the entire league, and an increasingly fractious and sometimes petty civil war between Rams and Chargers officials, according to documents and nearly two dozen interviews with owners, league and team executives, and lawyers."

The vote was one pushed forward by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in 2016 when he was able to persuade other team owners to vote for two teams to relocate to Los Angeles, led by the Rams and, "if they chose, the Chargers."

As part of the deal, Kroenke would agree to build a new stadium in the city and Spanos had the option of being a tenant in it for the sum of $1 per year. 

Another problem between the teams stems from the Rams' hope that the Chargers would be able to sell $400 million in stadium seat licenses (SSLs) at SoFi Stadium "as a way to contribute to their new home."

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Per Wickersham and Van Natta, the Chargers sold $60 million in stadium seat licenses in the fall of 2018 prompting a "controversial decision" from Spanos and team COO Jeanne Bonk that left the Rams "furious":

"They slashed prices for 26,000 upper deck seats, lowering tickets to the $50 to $90 range, and dropped the SSL rate to $100—up to 15 times less than the Rams were charging for the same seats. The Chargers' reduced prices were higher than options suggested by Legends [a company owned by Jones and the Steinbrenner family], which included the idea of abandoning the SSLs altogether. But for a bottom-line league, it was an unmissable flare that L.A. might never be a two-team NFL town."

In 2017, St. Louis filed a lawsuit against the NFL and all 32 owners to be reimbursed for damages and restitution related to the Rams' move out of the city.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in September the case can be heard in St. Louis, but Kroenke, the Rams and the league have filed an appeal to have it heard by the United States Supreme Court in a closed testimony. 

Per Liz Clarke of the Washington Post, Kroenke is privately funding SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, scheduled to open in 2020, and it carries a $5 billion price tag. 

Due to the Chargers' inability to get a strong foothold in Los Angeles to this point, The Athletic's Vincent Bonsignore reported earlier this month that NFL personnel have discussed the idea of moving them to England, and the team "would at least listen" if the league came to them with that option. 

Spanos denied the report, telling the media it was "total f--king bulls--t."

The Chargers, who are currently playing at Dignity Health Sports Park with a maximum capacity of 27,000, rank last in the NFL with an average attendance of 25,385. No other team draws fewer than 46,435 per game in 2019.