Relocation is a painful word. It’s right up there on the all-time list of unpleasant words, somewhere in between divorce and audit. Anyone who has seen their favorite team leave town can attest that it’s one of the most hurtful processes a sports fan might have to endure.
So the threat of a team relocating can cause quite the stir. That’s why one sentence used by a Toronto city councillor in conversation with me rattled an entire city 1,300 miles away. And that’s why talk from a Los Angeles-based company looking to lure a cash-strapped or stadium-needy franchise to the City of Angels has forced five municipalities to raise the relocation threat level from yellow to orange.
But franchises moving cities is a last resort, which is precisely why seasoned columnists are doing their best to reassure fans that talking about moving is far removed from actually moving.
In Jackonville, they’re used to being mentioned as a potential relocation target for cities with more people, more money and a heavier corporate presence. That’s probably why Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union isn’t fretting over AEG president Tim Leiweke stating that the company has reached out to the Jaguars regarding a possible move to Southern California:
The best solution is to just tune out any Jaguars moving stories for another couple years. It’ll take at least that long for Los Angeles to show that it can get over the financial and legal hurdles to make a real run at anybody’s team.
Los Angeles should worry about solving the Lakers’ issues or the Dodgers’ ownership drama. Getting the Jaguars is more a pipe dream than reality.
Frenette adds that “Los Angeles is no more ready to field a team in the next three years than Kim Kardashian is to win an Oscar,” but that won’t likely settle the nerves of those living in the Sunshine State’s most populated city. As long as people continue to carelessly throw the Jags’ name out there, the paranoia will persist.
But the Jaguars weren’t the only team mentioned by Leiweke. Four other franchises — specifically, the Vikings, Raiders, Chargers and Rams — made AEG’s list. In a similar vein to Frenette’s defense, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch threw up a shield in the Gateway to the West:
Judging by the way the story was played up by St. Louis television stations, you would have thought a fleet of moving vans was out at Rams Park, loading up Sam Bradford and the team’s other worldly possessions for an immediate transfer to LA.
But really, was anyone really shocked? Los Angeles obviously wants an NFL franchise to anchor a massive stadium project there. The Rams are one of several NFL teams drawing attention from LA for obvious reasons. [...]
But just because someone expresses interest in your football team, it doesn’t mean the team is moving. There’s a long way to go in this game. As it is, the Rams are committed to playing four more seasons of football at The Ed. A lot can be done between now and then.
Miklasz goes on to say that it would be insane to believe that Stan Kroenke, who was instrumental in bringing the franchise to St. Louis from L.A. in the first place, would sell or move his Rams after fighting for 15 years to finally acquire a majority share of the team.
Sure, Kroenke could try to move the team without selling it. But in my conversations with Kroenke, he has consistently and repeatedly stated his desire to keep the Rams in St. Louis. He points to his Missouri roots, his Missouri family ties, his Missouri business interests, his key role in bringing the Rams to St. Louis.
In San Diego, Nick Canepa of the Union-Tribune notes that his city still has a sizable advantage over its closest California neighbor in the battle over the Chargers:
I see it as a chicken-egg thing. They’re not building a stadium unless they know they’re getting a team, and they’re not getting a team unless they’re sure a stadium is being built. Hard to do. [...]
AEG will seek money from the NFL to help build a new stadium (as will San Diego, Minneapolis, et al.), but L.A. has no team. Who should get priority? The NFL owners probably will demand close to $1 billion in relocation fees from AEG. Who’s going to pay for that?
At the other end of the state in Oakland, the Raiders have already released a statement declaring that the team won’t escape from the grasp of the Davis family and is firmly planted in the Bay Area. ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson reiterates that stance:
I don’t see Al Davis, 81, selling the majority share of the Raiders. The Raiders are Davis’ life. I could see him offering more minority shares, and I could maybe even see him entertaining the thought of moving back to Los Angeles if the price is right, but what the Raiders most want is a new stadium in Oakland.
As for San Diego, the team is interested in getting a downtown San Diego stadium. There are many hoops and if that plan fizzles, a short move north to Los Angeles could be a possibility.
So, this development is certainly interesting and it is worth monitoring. But I don’t suggest anyone booking a flight to Hollywood just yet.
Who does that leave? Oh, Minnesota. Ahhh the Vikings. There might not be an NFL city with a more dire stadium situation than the one in Minneapolis. The team obviously responded to the Los Angeles controversy by insisting that the focus is 100 percent on building a new stadium in the Twin Cities, but some interesting reports have recently emerged that link AEG to the city and the team. And at a time like this, it’s hard for anyone to forcefully shoot down the nonsense.
Four of the five teams mentioned last week will be safe for years to come, and there’s a good chance that all five aren’t going anywhere. But that won’t stop the panic.
When it comes to relocation rumors, nothing will ever stop the panic.