Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The San Diego Chargers' Owners Don't Care About You.... But it's Nothing Personal

Chargers CEO Dean Spanos (right) and his liar-for-hire Mark Fabiani
I'm done with the Spanos family, owners of the San Diego Chargers, and their liar-for-hire, attorney Mark Fabiani. And they are clearly done with us. These guys keep telling us that they remain firmly committed to keeping this football team in San Diego. But just about everyone now knows that's 100 percent bullshit. The gall of Fabiani and Chargers CEO and President Dean Spanos is both staggering and sad. It's obvious they are over San Diego and can't wait to move this franchise a couple of hours north to the crummy confines of Carson, or Inglewood. Yes, greed in professional sports once again has trumped loyalty, sanity and decency.

I've defended the Spanos gang several times over the years because they are what they are: Businessmen. Nothing more, but nothing less. They're not philanthropists, I have argued (though they have given quite a bit to local charities). But I'm through defending them. Because, you see, while business is business, a professional sports franchise is a different animal. 

A pro sports team doesn't make widgets. It makes memories. It is often woven deep into the fabric of a community in a way that most regular-ole companies aren't. There is a unique bond that typically develops between a professional sports team and its city over the years, and that should be honored, not tarnished, by the owners of these insanely profitable operations.

I've somehow managed to separate my love for this football team and its players and coaches from my distrust of and increasing disdain for its owners. But after the events that unfolded this week, that's almost impossible. Shortly after team leaders met with city leaders on Tuesday to continue discussing a possible new stadium here, those local pols held a press conference at which they were almost giddy. They were obviously under the impression that the meeting went well and that they had made real progress toward a stadium solution in San Diego. Or at least they wanted us to think that was their impression.

But before the smiles even left most Charger fans' faces, including mine, Fabiani released a contradictorily dire and final-sounding statement that made it appear as if the Charger brass had attended an entirely different meeting. The Charger owners' conclusion after the Tuesday meeting was that there is no way to place a stadium ballot measure before San Diego voters before the end of this year because of potential legal obstacles. And that all but kills any chance of the Bolts staying in San Diego because of other imposed deadlines.

That was the last straw for me. If Dean Spanos really wanted to keep this team in this town, he would have had an entirely different take on Tuesday's meeting. He would have said that he'd try like hell to avoid and even fight the potential legal pitfalls and work to get this deal done for the fans who have supported this team for the last six decades.

So, it's over for me. I still love this football team, but the Spanos family's name is mud. At this point, I'd prefer that these phony-baloney owners release a statement like the one below and just stop playing games:
Dear San Diego Charger fans, 
We know this city has been the home of the Chargers for the last 54 years. We know many of you, especially Jamie Reno, will be heartbroken if we move this team out of San Diego. But we just want the money. 
We are not willing to make a little bit less money (but still make a killing) and be looked upon as heroes by keeping the team here for the next 50 years. Instead, we want to destroy our legacy in the sports world and move to Los Angeles because a stadium deal there will cost us less money and potentially make us more money. 
The thing is, folks, we really don't care about you. But it's nothing personal. It's just business.
Yours Most Insincerely, 
The Spanos Family and Our Lapdog Mark 

At least they could sleep better at night if they released such an honest statement for a change. Given the mounting evidence that this family now desperately wants to bug out, I say to my fellow longtime and loyal Charger fans: Don't buy any more tickets to Charger games! Don't support this family any longer, because they don't give a crap about you! Yeah, I know my take here will be interpreted by some as a slam of the players and coaches, who have nothing to do with all these decisions. That is not my intent at all. But at some point you have to take a stand.

Was this really the team's goodbye to San Diego?

Assuming the Charger owners can get the stadium deal they covet up north, and I think they can because they've got the NFL and elected officials up there behind them, this was essentially the team's first real goodbye to San Diego. Officially, no. But unofficially? Yeah. The team's ownership has been jerking us around long enough. I will still root for the Bolts. But no more of my money will go to anyone named Spanos.

This is the horse manure that Fabiani dumped on all of us this afternoon: “On behalf of our entire organization, the Chargers thank the City of San Diego’s negotiating team for working with us to try to find a way, at this late date, to place a stadium ballot measure before voters in December 2015 while complying fully with the California Environmental Quality Act and election law requirements."

The statement noted that both groups have spent many hours examining possible options at three formal meetings and during numerous informal conversations. "Based on all of this work and discussion, the Chargers have concluded that it is not possible to place a ballot measure before voters in December 2015 in a legally defensible manner given the requirements of the State’s election law and the California Environmental Quality Act," said the statement, which went on to say that the various options the team has explored with the City all lead to the same result: "Significant time-consuming litigation founded on multiple legal challenges, followed by a high risk of eventual defeat in the courts."

The statement concluded that the team remains "committed to maintaining an open line of communication with the City’s negotiators as we move through the summer and leading up to the special August meeting of National Football League owners. That meeting may provide important information about what is likely to occur during the remainder of 2015.”

That last jaw-droppingly insincere graf really makes me wanna hurl. This ownership obviously has zero interest in the stadium plan presented by San Diego leaders last month. They're going through the PR motions. They just don't want any trouble. They want to continue to sell tickets for this upcoming season and act as if they're still doing everything they can to keep this team here, while they work their asses off to nail down a stadium deal in Los Angeles. 

All you Charger fans out there who keep believing, please stop. Save yourself. I know it isn't easy. I'm a diehard fan who has not missed a single game in 31 years. I had season tix for two decades and even went to the games while I was fighting cancer. I love this team. I hate the thought of the Bolts leaving. But I have grown to resent these owners. Yes, you can love a team and hate the ownership. Yes, yes, yes yes.

The mayor doesn't really give a crap, either

Personally, I don't think San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has any great desire to keep the team here, either. I think he's just interested in optics. Saving face. He's not a bad guy at all, but he's just concerned with making it look like he did everything he could to keep the team here. No mayor wants to lose, on his or her watch, a local sports franchise that has been loved by so many for more than half a century.

Faulconer hoped to speed up the process of a public vote by putting the proposal on the ballot this year. Anything later would have been too late to meet deadlines. He and other city leaders said Tuesday that they would in fact be able to negotiate a new stadium deal that is exempt from the treacherous California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process, which represented a potential huge roadblock.

The Chargers disagree, of course. Fabiani and the rest insist that the “categorically exempt” declaration the city cited opens the new stadium project up to lawsuits that could keep the project tied up in court for years, as well as cause the Chargers to lose ground in their possible relocation to Los Angeles.

After the Chargers destroyed any optimism generated by the city's presser, the city released a subsequent statement insisting that a new stadium here still is possible if the Chargers want it. “We are still at the table. We have all the ingredients for success in San Diego if the Chargers work with us. We can get this done if the Chargers want to get it done,” the statement said.

This all happened on Tuesday. It was bloody. And now more than ever Dean Spanos looks like the West Coast version of Art Modell, the defiant owner of the Cleveland Browns who took that team out of Cleveland despite still having local stadium options. For the rest of his life, Modell was a pariah in Cleveland. He could not set foot in that city without being harassed. Make no mistake: the same thing will happen to Spanos and Fabiani.

Any chance at this point that the Bolts will not bolt?

Essentially three teams -- the Chargers, the Oakland Raiders and the St. Louis Rams -- are vying for probably two spots in L.A. San Diego is most likely going. But if the Chargers do remain here it won't be because of any genuine effort by the owners. And sadly, the relationship between the Bolts and its fans has already been permanently damaged. 

While we keep hearing Fabiani tout the 14 years of dedication by this ownership to getting a new stadium in San Diego, it's hollow praise. When the rubber hit the road, when the city actually came up with a real and viable proposal, the team bailed. Ultimately, Dean and Mark will likely be remembered as the two guys who were most responsible for taking this beloved football team, with its history of great players from Lance Alworth to Dan Fouts to Junior Seau to Ladainian Tomlinson to Philip Rivers, to a city that doesn't really give a rat's backside about pro football. 

The Rams, despite their storied legacy and legendary players such as Merlin Olsen, Roman Gabriel, Jack Youngblood and Eric Dickerson, couldn't make it up there and moved on to St. Louis. The Raiders, with their gang-infested fan base but undeniably impressive on-the-field legacy, couldn't make it work up there, either, and returned to Oakland. 

So good luck, Dean. Good luck, Mark. Be careful what you wish for. Enjoy those four-hour traffic jams in Los Angeles and the fan indifference to your team, whose name, if they leave, should be changed from the Los Angeles Chargers to something more Los Angeles-appropriate. Like, say, the Los Angeles Plastic Surgeons. Or maybe the Los Angeles Waiters-Who-Are-All-Really-Actors

Whatever you choose to call this "new" team, Dean and Mark, just don't call us. If and when you do abandon this great city, please don't be in any hurry to come back. You won't be greeted warmly.


  1. Have you hired an attorney yet? LOL As a sports fan, I can totally empathize with your feelings. If Paul Allen ever took the Blazers out of Portland, he'd also be a pariah here. According to some news reports, he almost did a few years ago, and the reaction was epic.

  2. Thanks ,Sue. Of course, Paul Allen is a better guy. And he REALLY doesn't need the money. And as you may know he is, like me, a lymphoma cancer survivor. I profiled Paul exclusively in my book Hope Begins in the Dark

  3. Jack Craciun IIIJune 17, 2015 at 4:38 PM

    Reno: Brilliant expose, knowing the quality of your global investigative reporting disciplines. If there is a "Paul Revere Call to Arms" award in San Diego, buddy you should get it in 2015 & 16!!

    From here in Cleveland we can share a little bit of some serious advise to heed well:

    Be vigilant San Diego fans! All of you Grandpas, Grandmas, Dads, Moms, Mentors, and KIDS of all ages who love San Diego and the grand legacy of the sweet Chargers. We can tell you this. You can't believe how easy it is to sneak an entire major league football team out of a major market city in the US, if you do it late at night in the dark.

    There are a lot of Browns fans in Dago and you all better get together and form your Save the Team Community Action Committees and locate your Block Watch Teams on the lawns of the Spanos mansions and city hall lawns. History does not have to repeat itself in the city by the sea I love too. READ THIS and keep your powder dry and flints ready: , Love, Jack Christmas III

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  6. A great, to the point article on the Chargers situation
    A 53 year old native San Diegan and lifelong Chargers fan. I haven't lived in San Diego for about 20 years. Watching the Chargers games on TV, reading about them online, and wearing my Chargers gear has always been a way for me to stay connected to my home town. If this move goes through count me amongst
    the broken hearted

  7. Funny how the quality of the ownership permeates a team. Look at the Forty-Niners for example. The Spanos' are not a football family and it shows in the team. You don't let players go to Vegas the day before a playoff game. Moves like firing great coaches like Ross and Schottenheimer (less than a month after the Chargers' 14-2 season ended) have not sat well with the fans.I was a 31 year season ticket holder and the game day experience really deteriorated over the years with more and more fights and insulting behavior from the opposing teams' fans. There was no supervision or oversight from the stadium staff. It all starts with ownership. And if you don't care about the fans the fans won't care about you.

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