All for the Money
Chargers’ impending move to LA exposes NFL’s true motive – and that could ultimately impact the Green Bay Packers
The year is 2026, and the NFL, at one of their ownership meetings, creates a new policy for all teams, taking effect immediately: each franchise must have a maximum of 10 investors. The Green Bay Packers, being owned by thousands of fans, are in violation, so the league works with the franchise to “take over” the shares. Lawsuits fly from the public, but NFL lawyers thoroughly investigated all legal loopholes. Ultimately, a group of three owners take full control of the Packers ... and immediately declares Lambeau Field obsolete while requiring the city of Green Bay, Brown County, and/or the state of Wisconsin to pay for a new stadium with the latest in 2026-style modern amenities. If those entities won’t do it, the new owners may build their own place in Milwaukee ... or San Diego ... or San Antonio.
The actions of the league in the last year made me realize that their primary goal is the making of money – even if no one involved, owners included, seem to like the actions taken to make that money.
I pretty much wrote fiction in the prior paragraph. The concept of the Green Bay Packers being owned by fewer than hundreds of thousands of people is considered inconceivable. I had always thought the same; I now think it almost entirely improbable – note the miniscule sliver of possibility I introduced. The actions of the league in the last year made me realize that their primary goal is the making of money – even if no one involved, owners included, seem to like the actions taken to make that money.
The incident that crystallized this realization was the recently announced move of the San Diego Chargers to Los Angeles. Some background: Since the LA Rams and Raiders both moved to St. Louis and Oakland, respectively, in 1995, the second-largest media market in the country has been without a team in the most-popular pro sport. Several teams, including my Vikings, have threatened to move, but that dread has almost always prompted hometown cities to pay up and build new stadiums. However, current commissioner Roger Goodell – if you are not a football fan, you probably still know him from numerous NFL-related controversies – has been determined to get two replacement franchises back in the city. The increased value of such a team, and dollars brought in from Hollywood-world for luxury suites and club seats, would spread around to the rest of the league and owners. More money for everyone!
By late 2015, the Rams and Raiders were again claiming to need new stadiums. The Rams’ owner – a billionaire – decided to build his own palace in suburban Los Angeles, and moved the team back for the 2016 season. Meanwhile, a third team with venue issues – the Chargers – became another moving prospect. They had been in San Diego since 1961 (ironically, the franchise spent its first year in LA), in the same stadium since ‘66, with an owner who did not want to be the villain who uprooted the team (the Rams owner did not really care about St. Louisans). Fellow owners began souring on a Chargers move, rather pondering that second LA spot to stay open as leverage for future teams wanting public stadium funding. Meanwhile, seemingly no Angelenos want the Chargers to come; they are either Rams fans (that franchise was previously there for nearly a half-century), old Raiders fans who hate the Chargers, or something else.
The Chargers chose to move anyway. They will be worth about an extra billion dollars, there will be at least eight more dates for corporations and celebs to drop mega-coinage on impressing clients who might glance at the game every so often, and the rest of the league gets richer. Oh, and while the stadium they will share with the Rams gets built, their temporary home is a 30,000-seat soccer stadium. Woo.
I tell this LA story to demonstrate that despite seemingly all common sense factors (outside of the failure of San Diego to build a new stadium) being negative towards a move, the one positive factor – lots of potential money – outweighed the rest. Commissioner Goodell is happy, and other owners will be when the NFL’s – and their individual franchises’ – values ascend.
Thus, I cannot unequivocally rule out that the league’s hubris will lead to targeting that pesky “ownerless” franchise in Wisconsin. Imagine what one or two wealthy owners could do to rake in more billions. The good news is that this is a fantasy; the bad news is fantasies occasionally become reality.