#360USA: Los Angeles tug of war over NFL teams has no clear solution

Steve Brenner 07:23 17/08/2015
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Michael Crabtree stayed in-state by joining the Raiders.

An NFL battle is raging off the pitch which could trump anything unleashed on it. Ever since Los Angeles – the second biggest media market in the United States behind New York – lost the Rams and the Raiders to St. Louis and Oakland respectively in 1995, there has been endless and fruitless chat about both returning.

Crumbling stadiums and dwindling support sent the franchises packing in the first place. Yet, 20 years on and with the debate refusing to wilt, finally, there are tangible, realistic options which have enough weight to convince commissioner Roger Goodell, who wants revenue up from $12 billion to $20 billion, that now is the time.

Just to make matters even more confusing, however, the St. Louis Rams, who were previously the LA Rams and have a rich history in Southern California, are also interested in joining the party. At most, one stadium will be built – LA will not have three teams. That, however, hasn’t deterred anyone.

Rams owner Stan Kroenke, the majority shareholder at Arsenal, has bought a 60 acre plot of land in Inglewood which he’s proposing to transform into an all-purpose $1.8 billion, 80,000 capacity arena which, ostensibly, could also cater for MLS. Perfect timing considering a new LA team will be in action within the next two years. As Gunners supporters will wholeheartedly agree, there are no flies on Silent Stan.

Yet, where the moves from Oakland and San Diego are centred on the problems of decaying stadia which would be solved by owners Mark Davis and Dean Spanos joining forces to have both playing in a new, $1.7 billion two-team stadium in Carson, home of the LA Galaxy, Kroenke wants to completely uproot the Rams.

Unsurprisingly, the city of St. Louis and its sports-mad inhabitants are not happy. As per normal, the reclusive 68-year-old has kept all cards slapped firmly to his chest. He sees moving to LA as a total no-brainer. It would, of course, rip the heart out of the St. Louis fan base. The Rams supremo, however, couldn’t care less.

“It’s a delicate situation,” said Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. “We’re all partners and the positive is, we have good opportunities in LA. There’s still work to be done, but I think it bodes well for the NFL.”

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There is one school of thought who believe Kroenke could be in cahoots with fellow owners to swap franchises, therefore moving someone else and their poor old fan base to Southern California, thus eliminating his standing as public enemy No1 in Missouri.

While Oakland and San Diego fans are fighting for their clubs, there were no rock-solid alternatives produced to the NFL committee which met this week in Chicago to hear prospective plans. Deadlines are fast approaching but hopes are receding for both to stay in their markets. Oakland city officials are so detached from the Raiders at present, they weren’t even invited to the meetings.

The amount of public funding has driven a wedge between them. If Oakland can’t produce $400 million of public money to help fund a new stadium, the privately funded project in Carson will go ahead. St. Louis has the most concrete plans, but once again, arguments over finances are continuing to put a spanner in the works. It’s an administrative nightmare, one which will never have everyone pulling in the right direction.

The fans who were left heartbroken in 1987 when the Cardinals were moved to Arizona are steeling themselves for more pain, although at present, it appears most likely that the Chargers and Raiders will move south while the Rams remain in their current location.

Regarding the whole picture, it’s a veritable minefield scattered with myriad variables: The cities involved, the current fan bases, the owners, the prospective stadium plans, the rest of the NFL as well as legal and environmental considerations which come with building huge new arenas.

Some owners want the teams in place in time for the 2016 season. That’s optimistic considering final decisions will not be made until after the New Year. A League which embraces a single entity structure hell-bent on keeping all owners happy is now fighting furiously to avoid noses being firmly being put out of joint.

LeBron James loves giving something back. The four-time NBA MVP has never forgotten his challenging roots so it was perhaps no surprise to hear the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar announce a plan to give children from his hometown the chance of going to university for free.

James has teamed up with the University of Akron to provide a guaranteed fouryear scholarship to the school for students of his ‘I Promise’ programme who qualify. The scholarship will cover tuition and the university’s general service fee – currently $9,500 per year. Around 2,300 children could benefit thanks to the multi-millionaire who describes himself as “just a kid from Akron.”

James said: “It’s the reason I do what I do. It means so much because, as a kid growing up in the inner city and a lot of African-American kids, you don’t really think past high school.

“You don’t really know your future.”

The students won’t be given anything on a silver platter – they need to graduate from high school in Akron, achieve standard testing requirements, and fulfil a community service obligation.

Baseball is without doubt one of the more fan-friendly sports, yet sometimes things can badly backfire. When balls fly into the stands, they’re gleefully gobbled up with no need to throw them back. Yet during the New Yankees’ game with the Toronto Blue Jays, some players had endured enough.

First, NY outfielder Brett Gardner was smacked on the head after a fan threw a Jose Bautista home run back. Then, at the top of the ninth, star Mark Teixeira was crunched by a fan who tried to get a ball which bounced near the home dugout. Teixeira let rip, but Gardner took everything in his stride.

“It wasn’t like it was coming from the second row. But I have a hard head so it’s all good, “ Gardner said.

“You can insult. You can’t assault,” added Teixeira. “Keep it to insults.”

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