On the evening it was reported the Chargers were relocating to Los Angeles, a San Diego police officer and his partner were dispatched to the team facility. There had been an act of vandalism; a man streamed live video on social media as he pelted the city-owned building’s doors with eggs while cursing the team.
It was quiet now.
The officer stood outside a patrol car, there to deter further disruption. He is a San Diego native, he said. Some of his family members have Chargers tattoos. He grew up attending games with his dad. Now, while working his beat, the father of two toddlers absorbed the evening’s personal consequence.
He can never attend a San Diego Chargers game with his kids.
Franchise relocation, in many respects, is good for business in the NFL. Certainly, its 32 owners profit. But the real gamble Monday wasn’t the Raiders moving to Las Vegas. It was that, with a third relocation in 15 months, the league continued to cheapen the very foundation of its business: fans.
When the Rams and Chargers moved, the other 31 owners pocketed nearly $21 million in relocation fees off each franchise. On Monday, Raiders owner Mark Davis became indebted about $11 million to each owner to swap Oakland for Las Vegas. Local revenue projections from new stadiums make such payments worthwhile.
These numbers are tangible.
In exchange, the cost of weakening the facade of fandom is far more difficult to quantify.
Teams cut players. Teams trade players. That’s part of business in the NFL. But the relationship between a club and city is packaged as something beyond that. It’s portrayed, at times, as a fabric resembling family. Home markets aren’t supposed to be cut or traded. It should be a rare last resort.
Having three relocations in 15 months doesn’t merely send the wrong message.
It screams it.
It screams that NFL owners run their franchise as a business. It screams they operate in their own interests. It screams the long-term viability of a club comes first and foremost, far more valuable than how the franchise is ingrained in its followers’ lives and traditions of their families.
This is the way it always has been in many NFL cities.
In a 15-month span, the league’s gamble was being so brazen about it.