If you haven't yet read this amazing ESPN The Magazine article by Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr. on the Chargers, Rams, and Raiders attempts to relocate to Los Angeles, you need to. Go do that right now and come back.
That was long but amazing, right? Right.
You can get a lot from that article and all of its insight, and Jeff Siniard will probably be around later or tomorrow to tell you what he think went wrong for Dean Spanos and the San Diego Chargers in their quest to move to Carson, but here's mine.
First Misstep: Mark Davis & The Santa Clara Raiders
I don't want to copy and paste too much from the ESPN article, but here's one part that is particularly important.
Spanos needed help. So Richardson suggested that he partner with Mark Davis on the Carson project. For years, the Chargers and Raiders, both of whom play in baseball venues built in the 1960s, had failed to persuade their communities to help offset the costs of new football-only stadiums. If two teams moved together, Richardson said, it would help solve the league's "California dilemma," as owners called it.
Most owners liked the eccentric Davis, now 60, even if they knew him only as the quiet guy with the bowl cut who had pushed his father Al's wheelchair through hotel lobbies at league meetings. Still, many wondered whether Davis, who never had an official job with the Raiders until he assumed control of the team after his father's death in 2011, was up to the challenge of shepherding a stadium project alone. He had turned down many offers to partner with the 49ers at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, and for years, the Davis family had resisted offers to buy the team and move it south. During one such lunch meeting in 2010, two Los Angeles businessmen pitched a lowball offer to Al Davis, who started laughing. "F--- you," he told them. "Get the hell out of here." And he went back to eating his lunch.
So on Feb. 19, 2015, six weeks after Kroenke's Inglewood announcement, the Raiders and Chargers proposed their Carson project, a football-only venue, unlike the epicenter planned for Inglewood, and financed mostly by Goldman Sachs.
First, I'd like to point out exactly how much I miss crazy old Al Davis. He was the best.
Second, there are two really interesting tidbits in that middle paragraph. One is that the other owners didn't really know or respect Mark Davis, and didn't know whether they should entrust him to own an NFL team in the country's #2 market. Two is that Davis has already turned down "many offers to partner with the 49ers at Levis' Stadium".
Stop and think about that for a second.
The Chargers were partnering with the Raiders to solve "California's dilemma". Two teams were playing in broken down stadiums, they both needed new ones, neither was going to get one from their home market. However, the Raiders were not in the same set of dire straits that the Chargers were. The Raiders had a new stadium, the crown jewel of west coast NFL stadiums, ready and willing to let them come play in it. (And, for those that are unaware, Santa Clara is almost exactly as far from Oakland as it is from San Francisco.)
The Chargers may have been in a bad way, but the Raiders were not. They had options, and they were options that didn't involve the league handing the keys to Los Angeles over to an owner that the other owners don't exactly trust or respect.
Second Misstep: The Los Angeles Raiders
Don't underestimate just how badly the NFL, run by the NFL owners, wanted to keep the Raiders out of Los Angeles.
In their first go-around in L.A., Raiders gear (and games) became synonymous with gangs and gang violence. It was just shy of an unmitigated disaster for a league that is trying to sell itself to upper class citizens that will buy its expensive tickets and merchandise. Nobody wanted that again.
There were plenty of rumors that no local venue, not even the L.A. Coliseum, would allow for the Raiders to play there temporarily while waiting for a stadium to be built.
There were reports that Stan Kroenke didn't want Raiders fans anywhere near his Inglewood site, and therefore would prefer to partner up with the Chargers, if forced to take a second team on as a partner or tenant.
How and When It Fell Apart
So, Dean Spanos partners with the Raiders for the Carson stadium project, and the other NFL owners are thinking that the Raiders are:
- Led by an owner that should not be trusted with a major market
- A magnet for gang activity in Los Angeles
- Unable to secure a temporary place to play
- Turning down many offers to play in a brand new stadium in Santa Clara
When it came time for the owners to vote, the turning point seemed to be when Baltimore Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti suggested that the vote be between the two options that the owners seemed to favor the most:
Chargers/Rams in Inglewood vs. Chargers/Raiders in Carson
The Inglewood plan, at this point, had become the popular option. The Carson plan, at this point, was being fiercely defended by many long-time owners (the Rooneys, the Maras, etc.). It seemed like a fair fight, until you took away the constant and realized what the vote actually was.
Rams in Inglewood vs. Raiders in Carson
Knowing how the owners felt about Mark Davis and the Raiders, this was bound to be an overwhelming vote, and it was.
And, just like that, Dean Spanos had all but removed himself and the Chargers from the equation. He had tied his ship to the idea of the Los Angeles Raiders, an idea that all of the other owners hated and an idea that was completely unnecessary, and it is what ended up making it an easy win for Stan Kroenke and the Los Angeles Rams.