The San Diego Chargers are headed to Los Angeles and will begin play there next season, the team announced Thursday.
The announcement Thursday morning by Dean Spanos, the team’s chairman, came one day after Spanos informed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and several fellow owners Wednesday that he planned to exercise the franchise’s option, granted last year by the owners, to join the Rams in Los Angeles.
“After much deliberation, I have made the decision to relocate the Chargers to Los Angeles, beginning with the 2017 NFL season,” Spanos wrote in a letter posted on the team’s website.
“San Diego has been our home for 56 years. It will always be part of our identity, and my family and I have nothing but gratitude and appreciation for the support and passion our fans have shared with us over the years.
“But today, we turn the page and begin an exciting new era as the Los Angeles Chargers,” Spanos wrote.
A letter from Dean Spanos pic.twitter.com/rTNIvrsN1A
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) January 12, 2017
Spanos told Goodell and the owners of his decision after the Chargers’ situation in San Diego remained unchanged by events of Wednesday’s meeting in New York of owners on the league’s stadium and finance committees, according to a person familiar with the thinking of team officials, who spoke Wednesday night on the condition of anonymity because the Chargers had made no formal public announcement at that point of their intention to relocate.
The Chargers have a staff meeting scheduled for 11 a.m. ET Thursday at which Spanos is to address team employees.
Two other people familiar with the league’s inner workings said Wednesday that Spanos had told several owners and some league leaders that he planned to take his team to L.A. They said that intention had been clear to the sport’s leaders in recent weeks.
The Chargers had until Tuesday to exercise the L.A. option granted to them last January by the owners when they ratified the Rams’ move from St. Louis to Los Angeles. The deadline for exercising that option was extended Wednesday. It had been set for Sunday but was moved back two days because of this weekend’s NFL playoff games and the holiday weekend.
No further approval vote of the owners is needed for the Chargers to move. The owners voted last month to ratify the lease agreement between the Chargers and Rams at the stadium now under construction in Inglewood, Calif. The owners also approved a waiver that would enable the Chargers to finance a portion of their relocation fee.
“LA is a remarkable place, and while we played our first season there in 1960 and have had fans there ever since, our entire organization knows that we have a tremendous amount of work to do,” Spanos wrote in Thursday’s letter. “We must earn the respect and support of LA football fans. We must get back to winning. And, we must make a meaningful contribution, not just on the field, but off the field as a leader and champion for the community.
“The Chargers are determined to fight for LA and we are excited to get started.”
Before this season, Los Angeles had been without an NFL franchise since the Rams and Raiders left town following the 1994 season. Now the city is to have two teams again beginning next season.
The Rams played this season in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with their palatial facility in Inglewood being built. According to a report by Profootballtalk, the Chargers’ temporary home stadium will be the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
The Chargers previously had partnered with the Raiders on a competing proposal for a stadium in Carson. But last January, the owners chose the Inglewood project proposed by Rams owner Stan Kroenke.
The Chargers were given the first option to join the Rams, a sign of the owners’ regard for Spanos and their respect for his longstanding efforts to make the NFL work in Southern California. Spanos and Kroenke are not believed to be close, and some within the sport doubted if they ever would agree to be business partners.
But Spanos was left with little choice, other owners have said. Voters in San Diego overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure in November that would have provided public funding for a new stadium there. There was recent speculation that the NFL might come up with a creative financial proposal to keep the Chargers in San Diego. But such an effort never materialized and a strong belief within the NFL emerged that Spanos and the Chargers were Los Angeles-bound.
According to the person familiar with the Chargers’ thinking, Spanos waited until after Wednesday’s meeting of the stadium and finance committees to inform the league and owners of his plans because he wanted to make certain that nothing would change regarding the NFL’s approach to the team’s situation in San Diego.
Goodell often has spoken of the NFL’s desire to make its return to Los Angeles successful. But the Rams had a difficult first season. They had a record of 4-12 and fired their coach, Jeff Fisher. Jared Goff, the quarterback chosen first overall in last year’s NFL draft, was a starter for only part of the season and struggled once he took over.
Both of teams currently are looking for new head coaches. The Chargers fired their coach, Mike McCoy, after a season in which they had a record of 5-11.
The option to join the Rams in Inglewood would have passed to the Raiders if the Chargers had declined it. But Raiders owner Mark Davis is focused on taking his franchise to Las Vegas. That was the primary topic when the NFL’s stadium and finance committees met Wednesday in New York. The owners perhaps could vote as soon as March. The Raiders’ relocation would have to be ratified by at least 24 of 32 owners.