Home markets meet deadlines – sort of – their fates now up to NFL

With the new year looming and the possibility their professional football teams might be on the move to Los Angeles, the cities of Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis met a National Football League mandated deadline Wednesday by submitting final stadium proposals and updates they hope will keep the Raiders, Chargers and Rams right where they are and out of the hands of L.A.

The fate of their futures as NFL cities is up to the leagues 32 owners, who are expected to decide in two weeks in Houston between the Raiders and Chargers relocation proposal to a privately funded joint stadium in Carson and the Rams relocation bid to a privately funded stadium in Inglewood.

NFL owners will gather in Houston on January 12th and 13th, presumably to decide what team – or teams – will move to Los Angeles and what site they will call home.

The leagues six-owner committee on Los Angeles Opportunities – along with various other related committees – will meet beforehand in New York January 6th and 7th. The Rams, Raiders and Chargers will be in New York as well.
And while owners will take an incredible amount of factors into account in deciding who ends up in the second-biggest market in the country, the efforts by San Diego, Oakland and St. Louis will also be weighed carefully.

To varying degrees, each of the three cities met the NFL’s deadline to submit updates.

“We are able to confirm that we have received submissions from Oakland, St. Louis, and San Diego as requested,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. “All three submissions are generally consistent with our most recent discussions with public officials and task forces. We appreciate the leadership that public officials have demonstrated on behalf of the three cities. There is a great deal of information for the three teams and all of NFL ownership to review and consider. At this point, no applications for relocation of a franchise have been filed.”

According to sources, there were no major surprises in any of the three proposals – or in Oakland’s case, update.

St. Louis is the lone city with an approved stadium plan, offering $400 million in public financing for a $1.1 billion stadium along the Mississippi River. But the proposal also accounts for an additional $100 million from the NFL – which hasn’t yet approved the extra financing – to bring the team and league contribution to $710 million.

“St. Louis has formally presented a $1.1 billion project that delivers more than $400 million in public financing and support, as well as a plan for an ultra-modern stadium on our downtown riverfront that the NFL and the St. Louis Rams will be extremely proud to call their own,” said St. Louis Stadium Task Force chief Dave Peacock. “Our proposal is the result of extraordinary teamwork by multiple government agencies, business leaders and industry experts, and is the culmination of intense work over the past 13 months to deliver on the certainty that has understandably been requested by the NFL.”

The Rams are not interested, though, and argue they are free agents able to relocate based on St. Louis’ refusal to honor the original lease the Rams signed upon moving there in 1995. The agreement stipulated the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, which owns the Edward Jones Dome, would pay for necessary improvements to maintain the EJD as a top-tier NFL stadium. But when an arbitrator ruled it would cost $700 million, the stadium authority balked. In doing so, it allowed the Rams to convert their EJD lease to one-year leases with the intent to relocate.

The Rams are expected to file for relocation to Los Angeles when the filing window officially opens on January.

Meanwhile, San Diego is proposing a $350 million contribution toward a $1.1 billion stadium in Mission Valley near the Chargers current home.

But there are timing and assurance issues.

San Diego’s efforts are predicated on a public vote in June to approve the city’s financial contribution. And while the city leaders outlined optimistic polling data for the potential vote in the proposal they delivered to the NFL, the Chargers have expressed consistent concern the plan will not be approved by local voters. In addition, there are concerns the project will get tied up in court on environmental issues.

The Chargers worry that by locking themselves into an uncertain San Diego stadium plan, they’d eventual;l;be left with no long-range home in San Diego and lose their landing spot in Los Angeles.

As a result, they have been focused entirely on Los Angeles for months now and are expected to file for relocation on January 4th.

“The proposal does not contain anything new, and so the team has nothing new to add to what has already been said about the proposal,” the Chargers said in a statement.

In Oakland, local leaders delivered a five-page letter to the NFL that suggests making 60 acres of land available to the Raiders for a new football stadium on the south end of the 120-acres property their current stadium sits. But that doesn’t address the $400 million funding gap the Raiders face on the proposed $900 million stadium they envision – and the city isn’t in position to help with – and while the local leaders are promising the club 8,000 surface parking spaces, it doesn’t specify where, exactly.

Upon seeing a draft of the letter, Raiders owner Mark Davis told the Bay Area News Group he couldn’t help wonder if Bay Area leaders just aren’t willing to help.

“They just don’t want to play with us,” he said. “I don’t know why. I don’t understand it.”

San Diego delivers final stadium proposal to NFL

The city of San Diego met its December 30th deadline today by submitting a final stadium update/proposal to the National Football League. City leaders hope to convince the NFL it is on the right track to approving a new stadium to keep the Chargers, but with a vote needed next summer to secure the local financing and the NFL intent on deciding the Chargers relocation plans to Los Angeles in early January, there is a timing issue involved.

You can view the proposal here.

The Chargers have remained steadfast for months they are not confident  San Diego can deliver an approved financing plan, nor guarantee the project won’t get bogged down in court on environmental impact elements. As a result, they have been focused squarely on gaining NFL approval to Carson, where they are planning a joint stadium with the Oakland Raiders.

The league and its 32 owners will take San Diego’s update into account over the next two weeks, although owners seem determined to decide between the Chargers and Raiders Carson project and St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood proposal between January 12th and 13th in Houston.

The winning bid and teams require 24 votes from the league’s 32 owners.

St. Louis has already delivered it’s final stadium proposal to the NFL as has Oakland.

Don’t count on Rams, Raiders & Chargers talking together in California next week

If the competing Los Angeles relocation bids of the St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers were a Facebook post, the current mood would read:

Stubborn. Uncertain. Skeptical. In search of a trustworthy leader and process to guide this to an outcome.

Exactly three weeks before the 32 National Football League owners gather in Houston to decide whether it will be the Chargers and Raiders moving to Carson or the Rams to Inglewood or some combination of the two outcomes, the fact the process is so bogged down with uncertainty and distrust is disturbing at best and reckless at worst.

Barring a late curveball, it is expected the Rams, Raiders and Chargers will all file relocation bids when the window opens on January 1st. Even with St. Louis approving a stadium plan to keep the Rams in Missouri, the Rams are fully committed to moving to Los Angeles and believe they will make a compelling argument to fellow owners for relocation approval in mid January.

And while the NFL hasn’t guaranteed a final decision in Houston on January 12 and 13, there is strong indication they will try to wrap this up next month in the Lone Star State.

But considering the current climate and lack of trust, it’s almost impossible to get a consensus on how this will end up or create progress toward an outcome.

Incredibly, NFL owners haven’t even decided on a voting format, let alone creating a mechanism that will allow for some sort of dialog between the three owners to potentially negotiate an outcome they can be satisfied with.

You would think by now the NFL would at least know the voting process.

For instance, will owners first vote on each teams individual relocation bids, and then on the particular sites?

Or will it be a vote on the Chargers/Raiders Carson proposal followed by a vote on the
Rams Inglewood proposal?

Or perhaps it will be a vote on the Chargers/Raiders Carson proposal VS the Rams Inglewood bid?

But three weeks before the biggest decision in league history, that’s as up in the air as who will claim the final Wild Card spot in the AFC.

Meanwhile, time is slipping away for the three owners to sit down and talk to each other and at least gage interest in some sort of grand compromise.

Sadly, Raiders, Chargers and Rams owners Mark Davis, Dean Spanos and Stan Kroenke will all be in California at the same time next week – the Rams will practice at the Raiders Napa Valley training camp site leading up to their season finale against the San Francisco 49ers – but after doing some poking around about the possibility of them getting together, the responses ranged from: Fat Chance to it’s more likely the twitter mobs of the St. Louis Rams, Los Angeles Rams, Oakland Raiders, L.A. Raiders and Chargers will spend Christmas Day together.

In other words, just another opportunity wasted.

And it’s not necessarily because no one wants to talk, either. We already know Kroenke is willing to bring on an equity partner in Inglewood, so he’s cracked open a door to negotiations. And no matter what the Raiders and Chargers say about not wanting to deal with Kroenke, it’s important keep in mind we are witnessing one of the great poker games to ever come down the pike.

In the spirit of protecting interests, all three will likely be open to a negotiated solution at some point.

The problem is, no one from the NFL has directed them to. Or urged them. Or demanded it.

And it would take nothing less than a respected owner or Commissioner Roger Goodell to mandate a sit down.

Otherwise, there is no motivation for Kroenke to pick up the phone and call Spanos – or vice versa – or Davis to call Kroenke. As someone involved in the process told me: No one is ready to move off their positions.

Which makes sense, of course. Until a higher authority directs them to talk, the Chargers and Raiders will remain dug in, as will the Rams. Not only would it be awkward for Kroenke to try and pick off either Spanos or Davis – or a betrayal for Spanos or Davis to call Kroenke – it would be an obvious sign of weakness.

First person to crack, breaks.

Which brings us to where both sides stand, support wise.

Maybe everyone is putting up a brave front or being naive or are honestly confident about their positions, but the sense I get is everyone feels good about their support from fellow owners.

Do you see the same problem I do?

It will take 24 votes to gain approval for relocation. And while I’ve never very good at math, even I can see something doesn’t add up if both sides feel good about their chances.

It means one of two things:

Either someone is lying or someone is being lied to.

Or, as someone suggested to me recently: It means no one really knows anything.

And that brings us to the reckless finish we might be headed to in Houston.

With Commissioner Goodell standing on the sideline – for reasons only he can explain – and the ownership support base for both projects firmly entrenched and no one from the undecided owners willing to take the reins, we might literally be headed to a bare-knuckled vote in which one or two franchises are left incredibly wounded.

Is that really how NFL owners want to do one or two of their colleagues?

Or maybe we’ll all figure out what seems to be obvious: Neither side has the necessary support to win outright, and it’s high time Kroenke, Davis and Spanos sat down together and talked.

It’s something that probably should have already happened.

But that takes a leader stepping up to create a trustworthy environment to negotiate.

And thus far, no one has been willing to do that.

What to read into Bob McNair’s comments

Without actually coming out and saying he prefers the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers Carson stadium project over the St. Louis Rams’ Inglewood project, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair essentially threw his hat into the Carson ring on Wednesday during an interview with the Houston Chronicle.

According to McNair, a key factor working for the Chargers and Raiders and against the Rams is that St. Louis will deliver an attractive stadium plan sufficient enough to block the Rams relocation to Los Angeles.

“St. Louis, they have come up with a proposal that is getting pretty close, in my opinion, to being an attractive proposal,” McNair told the Chronicle. “And if they do come up with an attractive proposal, then in my view, my personal opinion, I don’t think the Rams will receive the approval to relocate. So that would mean then you’d have two teams, San Diego and Oakland, that would be going into Carson. They have a partnership to build a stadium.”

You can read the entire story here.

To anyone who has been closely following the twists and turns of the National Football League back to Los Angeles story, that isn’t much of a surprise. McNair, a member of the six-owner Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities, has long been considered a Carson lean. And that jives with the belief that the committee is heavily in favor of the Carson project.

And the fact he came out publicly with his support fits with what a league official told me last month: As we get closer to decision time – the NFL hopes to decide who ends up in Los Angeles when owners meet in Houston January 12 and 13 -more and more owners will show their support for one project or the other.

So, while McNair’s opinion counts, it’s still just one of 32 opinions that will ultimately decide who ends up in Los Angeles. And he carries no more weight than Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who came out in support of Inglewood last month, or Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who supports Carson.

Remember, the winning bid requires 24 votes.

That isn’t meant to lessen the significance of what McNair said – because he does have clout – just a reminder that he is one man with one vote. And that’s something to keep in mind as more and more owners begin stating their preference.

As someone with a dog in the hunt told me recently, both sides are keeping tabs of votes. And both are confident they know who supports them. And until someone speaks up and says something different than expected – or someone previously on the fence expresses support for one or the other project – there is no reason to over-react to what McNair, Richardson or Jones say. Their positions have been well established.

Meanwhile, as it relates to what McNair said about the St. Louis stadium effort, while McNair might be right the proposal may ultimately sway sufficient support to Carson, that doesn’t mean the Rams will automatically sign off on the St. Louis project.

Owners can block Kroenke’s move to Los Angeles, but they can’t force him to agree to the deal currently on the table in St. Louis. It will be interesting to see exactly how the league handles that situation, should it come to that.

But that is an issue for another time.

First, either the Carson or Inglewood project must achieve the 24 votes. Presently, neither side can confidently say they have the necessary support.

Maybe that will happen in January in Houston.

Any fallout from that – and there will be – will be dealt with afterward.

Business as usual, NFL style

It seemed like an innocent question when I asked it, just a simple ice breaker to Disney CEO Bob Iger wondering how he got involved as the new head of the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers Carson stadium push.

Iger’s answer, and the stir it created, made it anything but your basic opening lob.

In fact, it opened up a bit of a can of worms while offering a peek into business, NFL style.

Turns out it was Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson who initially approached Iger last summer about joining the Carson project and who eventually played a role in Iger accepting the position.

Which immediately elicited a big “Huh?”

How can Richardson, a sitting member on the NFL’s six-owner Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities tasked with evaluating the various stadium options available in Los Angeles, also play such an integral role in the development of one of the two L.A. stadium proposals being considered by the NFL?

Richardson, a staunch supporter of Chargers owner Dean Spanos, is on record as saying he supports the Carson project over St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood project – which is within his rights.

But from the outside looking in, his participation as a committee member enhancing the Carson effort certainly raises an issue of process fairness.

And as some have speculated, maybe even open the door for legal action depending how this all turns out.

The NFL hopes to vote in January to decide which bid prevails. Approval requires at least 24 votes by the 32 owners. Richardson holds one of those votes. The committee he sits on is expected to offer a recommendation on what project it prefers. Some fellow owners may use that recommendation to base their vote.

If there aren’t some blurry lines there somewhere, your eyes must be better than mine.

Richardson is a member of the committee, yet he’s also aiding one project over another while trying to claim that he can make a decision that is in best interest of NFL.

Seems a bit fishy.

But then, this is the NFL we are talking about. And as we’ve learned more than a few times over the years, business NFL style is as distinctively unique as it is an accepted part of life to those who conduct it.

Which is why I consider legal action a remote possibility, at best. Especially upon doing some poking around the last few days.

The shared general consensus being: Just the NFL being the NFL.

Richardson’s hand in improving the Carson project speaks to the gray area the league sometimes operates to push for as many vibrant options as possible. The title of the committee on which he sits reveals part of its role: The Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities. The argument can be made – and already has via league sources – part of the committee’s function is to maximize the league’s options – or opportunities – in Los Angeles which, in turn, might maximize the offers available from the home markets.

Richardson, then, was operating squarely within the committee’s mandate.

His actions eventually resulted in attracting Bob Iger to an NFL project, which indisputably leaves the league better off than it was before.

And by strengthening the project, he put more pressure on San Diego and Oakland to get something done. To take it a step further, if for some reason Kroenke has a change of heart and accepts the stadium deal St. Louis leaders are proposing and Carson becomes the winner rather than a competing bid, it can be argued the work of Richardson helped make Carson a more dynamic plan.

As you can see, if it helps the bottom line the NFL will usually find a way to justify it.

Sketchy? Yes? Grounds for legal action? Not likely.

In fact, if I’m Kroenke and the Rams I’m probably wondering why Richardson felt the need to reach out to Iger in the first place.

To enhance the plan?

Or was it a Hail Mary Pass?

The next month or so might reveal the answer. We’ll find out then what site the league prefers and who is in the lead or working from behind.

For now it’s just business as usual, NFL style.