Every single time you think you're getting a handle on this business...
So, it appears that one of the members of the NFL's Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities has been instrumental in getting Disney CEO Bob Iger to join the Carson Stadium Project, a joint venture of the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders, if the Project is selected by the NFL in January.
In this case, the owner in question is Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers.
What could this mean in the NFL's attempts to relocate a franchise (or franchises) to Los Angeles? Let's speculate some below the jump.
What Do We Know
Richardson is a member of the six man Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities, which also includes Clark Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs, Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots, Robert McNair of the Houston Texans, John Mara of the New York Giants, and is chaired by Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It's been reported for some time that Richardson and Spanos are close. In fact, Fred Roggin of Beast 980 AM in Los Angeles reported the day before Thanksgiving that Richardson was instrumental in helping Spanos get the Carson Stadium Project up and running.
Richardson himself said in November that he supported the Carson Stadium Project, during NFL meetings in New York - in fact, about the exact same time the announcement about Iger was made.
And now, as reported by Vincent Bonsignore of the LA Daily News:
And, I did engage in some conversations with one of the principals that's considering moving, but they didn't really go far. Then I was approached - I guess I can do this Mark (Fabiani - Chargers Special Counsel)? I can talk about the genesis in a little more detail? - I was approached by Jerry Richardson, and he asked whether I'd be interested in helping very specifically the partnership of the raiders and the Chargers move to L.A?, develop a stadium, reposition themselves here. I engaged with conversations with Jerry, and then with both entities. That's how it came about. I had already had some other conversation.
- Disney CEO Bob Iger on December 10th.
According to the interview, Richardson approached Iger during the summer.
So, what we have here is evidence that a member of the Owner's Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities directly intervened on behalf of the Chargers and Raiders.
This is just my speculation, but I think it's extraordinarily likely that Richardson has been using his position on this committee to help keep Spanos in the Los Angeles game. Starting with Carson, the leaks about problems in Inglewood regarding the FAA, the frequent design changes with the Carson site, and finally the Iger addition.
Why Would Richardson do this?
Let's speculate on some of his motivations, shall we?
- He just wants to help his friend Dean Spanos.
- He recognized some essential problems with the Carson plan. So, he acted to strengthen the plan, because he wanted to make sure a viable option was in place in the event of any problems with Inglewood.
- He really thinks the Carson Stadium Project (stadium with ample parking, near freeways) is a better opportunity for the NFL than the Inglewood Stadium project (further from freeways, more of an urban village feel).
- Richardson, while not a member of the "Old Guard", is not among the NFL's wealthier owners; he was one of the owners pushing hardest against the players during the 2011 Lockout. Thus, he wants one of his "old guard / less money" owners in a powerful position in Los Angeles (definitively not Stan Kroenke) to help protect him in the coming years whenever major NFL money issues such as the next CBA, revenue sharing, or stadium assistance comes into play.
Personally, I think it's some combination of all of the above.
That said, I can't imagine the group of owners supporting the Inglewood project - not to mention Kroenke himself - can be all that thrilled with Richardson's involvement. While some have contended that legal action might be possible, the simple fact that Fabiani allowed this information to be made public probably indicates it's not as much of a surprise to NFL Ownership as it was to the public.
Ultimately, whether it helps or hurts Spanos in his attempt to move the Chargers is impossible to know.
However, what may be hurting Spanos is his insistence on staying partnered with Mark Davis. According to this report by Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, there's one team the NFL really doesn't want in Los Angeles, and that's the Raiders. This is pertinent because teams can file a joint relocation application with the NFL. If the NFL decides they don't want the Raiders in Los Angeles, and the Chargers file a joint application with the Raiders, that would kill the application for both teams.
While we were all surprised to learn about the involvement of Jerry Richardson in the Carson bid, it doesn't necessarily portend doom for that project.
Part of Richardson's role is to identify and maximize the NFL's options in Los Angeles. While some owners may not like his actions on behalf of Spanos and Davis, others may view his actions as simply part of his duties.
What is beyond question, in my opinion, is that Richardson's involvement has been essential in keeping Spanos and Davis in the Los Angeles relocation game. Without Richardson's assistance, it's entirely possible the project would be much further behind the Inglewood project - both in potential support and feasibility.
The real question is Richardson has helped build a stalemate for the NFL, or a winning bid for Dean Spanos.