The Los Angeles Chargers took advantage of a slow period in the NFL to drop some major news Tuesday, at least to those interested in uniform design. As their primary home look this season, they are going back to their classic “powder blues,” returning to a uniform often hailed over the years as the best in the league.
Many, including a number of Chargers players, immediately cheered the announcement. However, some others saw it as yet another slap in the face to San Diego fans who for decades wanted the team to make that move — only to see it move to Los Angeles in 2017.
Versions of the powder-blue uniforms date back to the Chargers’ inaugural season in 1960 — when they spent one year in Los Angeles before moving to San Diego — until they moved to a darker blue in 1974. The team brought back the look 20 years later as an occasional alternate uniform, amid frequent calls for the Chargers to make the decision they announced Monday.
It was better late than never for some, including current players such as wide receiver Keenan Allen, who exclaimed (via chargers.com), “The sweeeeeeetest uniform in the NFL!”
“Before I even came to the Chargers I knew about the powder blues,” said safety Adrian Phillips. “When I came out here and got to put it on, it’s an honor. You hear it around the nation — the powder blues are the best in sports. So getting to wear them more, it feels like we get to turn up more.”
In a promotional video, the Chargers took the opportunity to slip in a lighthearted jab at Jon Gruden, the head coach of the division-rival Oakland Raiders. In a montage of past pro-powder blue tweets, the team included one from a Gruden parody account, @Faux_Gruden, which had the former “Monday Night Football” analyst declaring his “love” for the uniforms and saying, “Reminds me of the blue powder I used to make Kool-Aid. What a great drink man.”
As fate would have it, the same year in which the Chargers first brought back the uniforms, 1994, also saw the Raiders and Rams spend their final seasons in Los Angeles. The Rams departed for St. Louis, and Los Angeles went without an NFL team until 2016, when they returned.
The Raiders and Chargers also petitioned the NFL in 2016 to relocate to Los Angeles and play in a stadium they proposed to build and share. However, the league ended up approving a stadium plan by Rams owner Stan Kroenke with a provision that the Chargers had the option to also play in it.
After years of fruitless stadium negotiations with San Diego officials, the Chargers announced after an awkward 2016 season in that city that they would take the option and move to Los Angeles. With the new stadium not expected to be ready until the 2020 season, the Rams have been playing in venerable Memorial Coliseum, while the Chargers have made a temporary home in a venue built for professional soccer.
That venue, formerly called the Home Depot Center, then StubHub Center and now Dignity Health Sports Park, has a seating capacity of approximately 27,000, making it by far the NFL’s smallest facility in current use. Despite that, the Chargers have had enormous difficulty in filling it with their own fans, as many have refused to come up north from San Diego while Angelenos have been slow to embrace the team, resulting in home games full of raucous cheering for opponents.
Thus the return of the much-beloved and long-awaited powder blues appeared, to some on Monday, as a desperation move by Chargers owner Dean Spanos to drum up some interest in and enthusiasm for his team.
Calling the Spanos family an “ownership group that only listens to fans for $,” a Twitter user identifying himself as “sadsdfan” tweeted, “This is sooooo messed up. We asked for these uniforms in San Diego forever and the Spanos’ never listened to us.” Instead, he tweeted, “They take the team to a new city where most people don’t care for the team.”
Another fan replied to the Chargers’ tweeted announcement by saying, “you stole a team away from a city because they wouldn’t give you $450 million in taxpayers money just so you could be the 12th most popular sports team in los angeles. dean spanos can shove his uniforms where the sun don’t shine.”
A Twitter user who described himself as a “die-hard Padres fan” and “former die-hard Chargers fan” said, “So after minimally wearing these bad-ass uniforms that folks here loved, Spanos makes these the primary uniforms in LA. More and more proof this guy hates San Diego.”
For its part, the team preferred to trumpet the excited comments from its players. “It’s (what you think of when you think of) the Chargers,” said cornerback Casey Hayward. “I remember watching LT [former running back LaDainian Tomlinson] and all those guys wearing that color. It just brings back a lot of memories.”
The powder blues brought back memories for plenty of folks Tuesday. It’s just that, for some of them, those recollections were of an NFL fan base that spent years dealing with frustration before suddenly having to cope with the fact that it didn’t have a team anymore, in any uniform color.
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