By the time Chargers owner Dean Spanos stepped to the microphone, the 150 or so fans at the Forum were on their feet.
They waved team flags. A few wore T-shirts with the Dodgers-like interlocking L.A. logo the Chargers used, then quickly abandoned last week, after announcing their move from San Diego to Los Angeles. Everyone else seemed to be in a jersey at the invitation-only event Wednesday — including one man in a Rams pullover and another in Kansas City Chiefs garb.
They booed each mention of the Rams and, when Spanos was introduced, chanted, “Dean! Dean! Dean!”
“This is really surreal,” the owner said.
One man responded with a yell: “Welcome back, Dean!”
Spanos stood in front of a newly-minted “Los Angeles Chargers” backdrop on a stage with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Rams Chief Executive Kevin Demoff, Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. and just-hired Chargers Coach Anthony Lynn wedged next to five players and six cheerleaders wielding gold pompoms. Billed as a kickoff ceremony, the half-hour event included pounding music, brief video highlights from the team’s 56 seasons in San Diego and reminders of the awkwardness that’s accompanied the relocation.
Less than a minute into Spanos’ remarks, Chargers fan Joseph Macrae, standing in the front row of the fan section, interrupted.
“Way to screw over San Diego, Dean!” he shouted.
Spanos continued, but the din grew as many in the crowd tried to drown out Macrae with shouts and catcalls of their own.
Fans rally during a ceremony to kick off the Chargers’ return to Los Angeles at The Forum in Inglewood on Jan. 18.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Chargers President Dean Spanos speaks during a ceremony to kick off his team’s return to L.A. at The Forum in Inglewood on Jan. 18.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell listens to Fred Roggin of KNBC-TV speak during a ceremony to kick off the Chargers’ return to Los Angeles at The Forum in Inglewood on Jan. 18.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, center, cornerback Jason Verrett, right, mess with each other on stage at at Rally at The Forum in Inglewood on Jan. 18.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers Coach Anthony Lynn greets supporters during a ceremony to kick off his team’s return to L.A. on Jan. 18 at The Forum in Inglewood.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers fans Luis Salas and his daughter Lily Salas, 9, take a selfie in front of a “Welcome Los Angeles Chargers,” sign at The Forum on Jan. 18.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
“We know we need to get to know this community, listen and learn what makes L.A. tick,” the owner said.
Macrae kept shouting, chucked a white No. 56 Chargers jersey in the direction of Spanos and thrust his middle fingers high in the air. One man shoved Macrae before security escorted Macrae out of the arena. The crowd chanted “L.A. Chargers!” — they didn’t resort to the team’s new marketing slogan, “Fight for L.A.” The noise finally swallowed Spanos.
It was the latest indignity in a week of challenges for the Chargers. Players, including quarterback Philip Rivers, learned of the move on social media. Fans booed Saturday at Staples Center during the Clippers-Lakers game when the team’s logo was shown on the big screen with the Spanos family in attendance. On Tuesday, Lynn accidentally referred to the Chargers’ previous city in his introductory news conference.
The team hasn’t disclosed how many $100 refundable season-ticket deposits it has received after the Rams collected more than 45,000 deposits in the first 48 hours they were available last year. And dozens of moving companies in San Diego and Los Angeles promised they wouldn’t help the Chargers relocate.
Before the heckling Wednesday, Butts pledged that, “You are welcome here and will feel welcome every day.”
Goodell praised Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who is building the $2.6-billion stadium adjacent to the Forum that his team will lease to the Chargers for $1 a year.
“It’s all about the vision of Stan Kroenke,” the commissioner said.
Twice Goodell mentioned Kroenke — who didn’t attend — before referencing Spanos and the Chargers.
“This is a really special thing for the NFL,” the commissioner said of two teams playing in L.A. “I hope the people of this community understand that it demonstrates the strength of the commitment that we have … that you can do this and do it successfully with two teams here.”
Demoff, whose team held a similar event at the Forum last January after moving from St. Louis, joined in lauding Kroenke — and predicted success for the partnership with the Chargers.
After some prodding, the crowd abstained from booing while he spoke.
“This is a market that can absolutely succeed with two teams,” said Demoff, who mentioned the crowd in excess of 90,000 the Rams drew against the Seattle Seahawks at the Coliseum this season. “Let’s go tackle this together.”
The most enthusiastic reception might have been saved for Rivers. A guest on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” the night before along with teammate Joey Bosa, Rivers seemed heartened by the noisy response.
“All I’ve been hearing the last few days is how no one wanted us up here,” he said. “But, shoot, I think we’re going to be all right.”
After the event ended, arena workers swept blue and gold confetti off the empty stage. The dignitaries had long since ducked out. The stands were empty. But Rivers lingered off to the side, hemmed in by television cameras and recorders and questions. He tried to look forward.
“Time can be healing,” Rivers said.
Follow Nathan Fenno on Twitter @nathanfenno