Advertisement
Sports

Rams, Chargers, Raiders and relocation are focus of NFL’s town hall meetings

Baltimore Colts

A moving van carrying the Baltimore Colts’ equipment leaves Baltimore for Indianapolis in the middle of the night on March 19, 1984.

(Lloyd Pearson / Associated Press)

The photos are grainy but still searing. They are pictures of Mayflower moving vans leaving snowy Baltimore in 1984 and transporting the equipment of that city’s beloved NFL team, the Colts, to Indianapolis. Even three decades later, the scene is synonymous with heartbreak, betrayal and greed.

Similar situations played out — in emotions if not in pictures — when the Raiders left Oakland for Los Angeles, the Browns left Cleveland for Baltimore and the Oilers left Houston for Tennessee.

NFL teams are not simply private enterprises. They are public trusts that are part of the fabric of a community.

L.A. Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke doesn’t want the Chargers or the Raiders. He wants a different team.
Advertisement

So it’s little wonder that emotions have reached a boil in St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland, where the Rams, Chargers and Raiders are all contemplating moves to the Los Angeles market, which the league sees as being home to one or two of them by next season.

With that in mind, and in an effort to apply some degree of due process to a situation that could be chaotic, the NFL is staging three town hall meetings on consecutive nights this week, one in each of the three home markets. That’s Tuesday in St. Louis, Wednesday in San Diego and Thursday in Oakland.

The meetings are unprecedented for the NFL, which requires them as part of relocation guidelines adopted in recent years.

“The intent of these meetings is to bring the NFL directly into a conversation with the people in the community,” said Eric Grubman, the league’s executive vice president who is overseeing the L.A. situation. “It’s to give them an opportunity to be able to ask questions and make comments, and not have it filtered by someone else.”

Advertisement

The league is running the meetings, not the teams in question, and Grubman will be on stage fielding the questions, and probably not representatives of the Rams, Chargers or Raiders. The so-called relocation hearings will take place in relatively small theaters: the Peabody Opera House (seating capacity of 2,000) in St. Louis, Spreckels Theatre (1,463) in San Diego and Paramount Theatre (3,040) in Oakland. Each hearing will take place from 7-10 p.m. local time and will be streamed live on NFL.com/publichearings.

Although the hearings are open to the public, a free entry pass is required to attend. The league has been conducting a registration process for the passes, accepting applications from season-ticket holders as well as other members of the community.

There is significant concern from many people in the three cities that the meetings are a mere academic exercise, the league simply checking off the boxes to satisfy protocol as opposed to something that could actually convince the league or teams to reconsider their current path.

“I think these meetings can affect the viewpoint of the owners and the commissioner, and the public leadership,” Grubman said. “But I don’t know until we’ve had the meetings how to gauge that potential. It’s never been done before.”

Mark Fabiani, Chargers special counsel, said representatives from the club plan to attend the meeting in San Diego. In an interview last week with The Mighty 1090 AM radio show, Fabiani said the Chargers intend to file a relocation application.

The Chargers and Raiders are jointly proposing a stadium in Carson, the Rams a competing concept in Inglewood.

“It’s like what Art Rooney said at the meetings, that all three teams are expected to file,” he said Monday, referring to the Pittsburgh Steelers owner who chairs the NFL’s Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities.

Advertisement

“So what I said was, yes, given that all three teams are expected to file, we are going to file as well. We just cannot give up the L.A. market without a fight.”

Not surprisingly, Fabiani and others anticipate that emotions will run high at the meetings, but Fabiani said: “We’ve been to hundreds of town halls on the stadium issue over the years. This will be bigger and in a heated environment. But we started having these 14 years ago over the ticket guarantee [a controversial and since-scrapped arrangement with San Diego in which the city agreed to buy back all unsold general admission tickets.].

“We were a losing team at the time, and people were extremely unhappy. That was pretty contentious too.”

Six shooters

The eyes of the NFL will be on the Sunday night matchup when the 6-0 Denver Broncos host the 6-0 Green Bay Packers, a quarterback showdown between Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers.

Broncos Coach Gary Kubiak said Monday that it will be key for Denver’s defense to avoid jumping offside, something Rodgers frequently uses to his advantage.

“I think the biggest thing is one of our weaknesses has been free plays for football teams,” Kubiak said. “He’s the master of the free play. He gets you to jump and a ball is going down the field, so it’s something we’re going to have to concentrate on this week, be disciplined in the cadence and understand that we’ve got to keep playing if we do make a mistake.”

Battling Brady

Advertisement

The Miami Dolphins have won both of their games under Dan Campbell, their interim coach, and have done so convincingly. They beat the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans in consecutive weeks by scores of 38-10 and 44-26.

A more challenging test comes Thursday against the New England Patriots, who are 6-0 for the first time since going 16-0 in the 2007 regular season.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said Monday that he’s better now than he was five years ago.

“I try to be critical of myself,” Brady said during an appearance on “Dennis and Callahan” on Boston’s WEEI radio. “I think I’m making all the throws I need to make. There can always be things I can do better. I’ve worked hard always on my throwing mechanics. I worked hard this offseason on them. Playing quarterback is throwing the ball accurately, being able to make the throws, being durable and making good decisions.

“I try to take care of the good decision part, I try to take care of the accurate part, I try to take care of the durability part. Then it comes down to leadership and relating to your teammates and all those things that are different challenges that you face as you get older.”

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer


Advertisement