Opinion: Chargers are never going to make it in Los Angeles

Nancy Armour


Published 5: 16 PM EST Nov 5, 2019

The Chargers and the NFL have backed themselves into a corner of their own design.

The league allowed the Chargers to destroy their home in San Diego, certain there would be a market for the team in Los Angeles despite all warnings to the contrary. Sure enough, it’s three years later and the only market where the Chargers are thriving is the secondary one.

Their temporary home only seats 30,000, yet it is repeatedly overrun by opponents’ fans. Sales of personal seat licenses for the swanky, soon-to-open SoFi Stadium are reportedly feeble. With almost no history in Los Angeles, the Chargers have not been able to get a foothold in a town where interest in the NFL has never been particularly strong.

Now come rumblings, via a report Monday in The Athletic, that the NFL is concerned enough about the Chargers’ long-term viability in Los Angeles that it is at least exploring the option of making the team its first full-time franchise in London.

“It’s total (expletive) bullshit,” Chargers owner Dean Spanos said Tuesday. “We’re not going to London. We’re not going anywhere. We’re playing in Los Angeles. This is our home, and this is where we are planning to be for a long (expletive) time. Period.”

The NFL wasn’t quite so, umm, colorful, but no less definitive. 

“No consideration has been given to the Chargers playing anywhere other than Los Angeles … next season and beyond,” the league said in a statement. “Both our office and the Chargers are entirely focused on the success of the team in Los Angeles.” 

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Uh-huh. The success of the NFL’s London games means some team is moving there, likely sooner rather than later, and right now the Chargers and the Jacksonville Jaguars are the most obvious candidates. Let’s see what happens after a season or two of the Chargers dragging down the NFL’s attendance numbers, or only being able to sell out their games at SoFi Stadium with the help of their out-of-town friends.

In the meantime, forgive me if I have zero sympathy for and am actually enjoying the predicament in which the NFL and Chargers find themselves.

The Chargers abandoned San Diego, their home of more than a half-century, for no other reason than greed. The loyalty of the fans, the impact the departure would have on a smaller-market city, the jobs that were lost – Spanos didn’t care about any of that. He wanted a new stadium but didn’t want to pay for it, and when San Diego called his bluff, he picked up his ball and went to a new city.

That Spanos then accepted the NFL’s $650 million relocation fee without batting an eye is some next-level hypocrisy. But I digress …

The Chargers were always going to be a bad fit in Los Angeles, and just about everyone could see that. Los Angeles is all about glitz and glamour, but it has never been a big sports city. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. It loves its Lakers and its Dodgers and its USC football and UCLA basketball, but that has as much to do with the titles the teams have won and the stars who have played for them as anything else.

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The Clippers, another San Diego transplant, have been in Los Angeles for how long now? And it’s taken a super team and a hyperactive and quirky owner who can spawn a new meme at any moment to make them semi-relevant in their own town.

Los Angeles’ history with the NFL was not exactly heartening, either. It had lured and lost two teams, the Rams and the Raiders, and didn’t seem to mind being without an NFL team for 20-some years after they left. Didn’t really seem to notice, if we’re being truthful.

To foist two teams on a city ambivalent about the NFL and think both would thrive was either arrogant or ignorant or a little bit of both.

At least the Rams had a history in Los Angeles, along with a small fan base that stayed loyal while the team was in St. Louis. The Chargers had … nothing.

Plus, those in Los Angeles who cared about the NFL already had their allegiances, whether it was still to the Rams or Raiders, or some other team. There was no room for the Chargers, and no want to create any for them, either.  

The NFL and the Chargers seem to think all of this will change when the team moves into SoFi Stadium, which it will share with the Rams. That the people of Los Angeles will be so dazzled by the new digs that they will embrace the Chargers and forget about the ugliness in San Diego.

But the Chargers need more than a change of address – if that address is still in Southern California, that is – and the NFL needs to be realistic about the market in Los Angeles. Allowing the Chargers to move to Los Angeles was a bad idea, one that looks worse with every game they play there. 

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Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour. 

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