NFL Shoves Greed Down Fans Throats

by on January 12, 2016

Last week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told fans of the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams that they should be prepared for their teams to relocate. In a report to owners obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Goodell stated that each home market had “ample opportunity but did not develop their proposals sufficiently to ensure the retention of its NFL team.”

In other words, even the state of Missouri’s willingness to put up $1 billion to build a new stadium for the Rams in St. Louis was not enough. Goodell’s comments followed Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s claim that “no NFL team” would be interested in such a stadium.

Kroenke, whose wife’s share of Wal-Mart is estimated at $4.8 billion, wants to build a stadium in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Inglewood and return the Rams to their former home city. His relocation application also disparaged the St. Louis economy and St. Louis’s ability to support more than two teams (the baseball Cardinals and hockey Blues).

The Rams have never had a winning season under Kroenke’s ownership, which began in 2010.

Fans Be Damned

The Rams, Chargers and Raiders all have owners who have long failed to deliver winning teams. The Rams and Chargers also have in common super wealthy owners who have demanded ever increasing public handouts from their cities.

The Spanos family that owns the Chargers has a net worth of $ $1.69 billion. Alex Spanos built his fortune constructing apartments, and at one point was California’s top financial contributor to anti-rent control campaigns.

Despite its vast wealth, the Spanos family has long demanded millions of dollars from San Diego taxpayers.

Alameda County taxpayers will be paying off the bonds for the original Raiders return until 2025 regardless of whether the team moves. That’s a cost of over $15 million annually that could otherwise have gone to hire teachers, police and fund affordable housing.

Raiders owner Mark Davis wants the city to kick in $400 million for a new stadium. To her great credit, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has refused.

All three teams have also moved before and would be returning to their most recent home (the Rams were in Cleveland before LA. Al Davis was a coach for the Los Angeles Chargers of the AFL). But all three teams had tremendously loyal fans in their current cities and greed is the sole reason for their relocation to Los Angeles.

Should the Raiders stay in Oakland it will not because Davis cares about local fans. Rather, it will be due to the NFL owners not wanting to put a third team in Los Angeles owned by a guy without a lot of money (that’s why Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones opposes the Raiders relocation).

A Changing NFL

The NFL’s increasing promotion of greed over fans is clear from its different reactions to the proposed relocations.

In 1980, the NFL denied the Raiders move to Los Angeles and the team was only able to move in 1982 after winning a lawsuit against the league. That was a different NFL with longtime owners who placed fan loyalty over maximizing profits.

After losing to the Raiders the NFL sought to protect their future legal position by imposing specific conditions on future relocations, But Goodell’s finding justifying the Rams departure from St. Louis makes a mockery of these rules.

Today’s NFL refuses to fund research into football-caused brain damage or on safer helmets, but pays Goodell over $30 million a year.

What Can Activists Do?

When Wal-Mart moves into a town, activists typically respond to the company’s nefarious labor practices by shopping elsewhere. The same holds true when companies close local factories and move overseas, or stay and engage in destructive economic or environmental practices.

NFL football is different.

Raider fans remained loyal to the team after it moved to LA. Baltimore Colts fans, irate over the team’s middle of night departure to Indianapolis, responded by stealing the Browns from Cleveland. St. Louis fans now unhappy about the Rams imminent move stole the team from Los Angeles to replace the now Arizona Cardinals.

Based on this record, public resistance to the NFL’s latest example of unregulated capitalism is unlikely to mount.

The good news for San Diego and St. Louis residents is that their cities won’t be allocating hundreds of millions of dollars to billionaire sports team owners. Fans will soon realize they don’t miss the heartbreak of year after year of defeats, which will soon be Los Angeles’ problem.

As for the Raiders, the simple solution is for Mark Davis to sell the team to a billionaire who can afford to build a new stadium. The owner’s rejection of the Raiders relocation effort may make this the most likely scenario.

As San Francisco is about to undergo a Super Bowl 50 advertising blitz about the NFL’s generosity, think about how the league has mistreated loyal St. Louis and San Diego fans all in pursuit of the greatest profit.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron. His new book is The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco.

Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw's latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. He is the author of four prior books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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