After more than two decades without an NFL franchise, the Los Angeles market appears poised to add as many as three as early as 2016. But will it happen?
An NFL owner not involved in the "Race for L.A." told ESPN.com that things could get "very messy" with the St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders all focusing on a market that last hosted an NFL team in 1994.
The league believes it has control of the situation because franchise relocation requires approval of three-quarters of the 32 owners. However, influential Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones cast doubt on the strength of the league's constitution when he told The New York Times last month that a franchise can move without league approval.
Here is a primer on the more pressing questions regarding the possibility of the NFL returning to Los Angeles:
Q. Which teams are in play for relocation?
A. The Rams, Chargers and Raiders are the three often mentioned in the move to L.A. In January, Rams owner Stan Kroenke announced plans to build an 80,000-seat stadium on the Hollywood Park site in Inglewood, California. On Thursday, Chargers officials confirmed owner Dean Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis are partnering on a proposal to build a stadium in Carson, California, as protection against being unable to get new stadiums in their current cities.
Q. How difficult would it be for the teams to get out of their leases?
A. Not at all. Each essentially is on a year-to-year lease.
Q. What's the likelihood that three teams play in Los Angeles?
A. It seems like a stretch at this point. The league requires a three-quarters approval vote of the owners before a franchise can relocate, and one owner told ESPN.com he believes it makes the most sense to have two teams share one stadium. "I'm sure three teams could exist," the owner said, "but [commissioner Roger Goodell] won't let Stan [Kroenke] move to L.A. because [Goodell] will catch holy hell for moving a team from a market willing to spend hundreds of millions to keep a team."
Q. Could Kroenke put up a fight if the league tried to block him from the L.A. market?
A. Jones, one of the league's true power brokers, made it clear in January that he believes the Rams can move without league approval. Jones told The New York Times, "Keep in mind that teams have moved without the permission of the league. They just have. ... There are just certain things that clubs can do." Doing so likely would mean a court battle, which is what the late Al Davis found himself in when the league tried to stop his Raiders from moving to Los Angeles from Oakland in 1982. There's no way of knowing if Mark Davis, Al's son who assumed control of the Raiders franchise following his father's death in October 2011, would be willing to put up such a fight. One virtual certainty, however, is that Spanos would not do so for his Chargers. Spanos believes in doing what's best for the league and following the will of the majority. It's not in his nature to strike out on his own and challenge his fellow owners in a courtroom.
Q. What's the earliest a new NFL stadium could open?
A. Some have floated the idea of 2017, which seems overly aggressive considering it took the San Francisco 49ers a little more than two years to build Levi's Stadium. The Carson and Hollywood Park sites still have to go through various political and legal steps, including environmental impact reports. A high-ranking official from one team identified 2018 as a realistic target date for opening a new stadium.
Q. How soon could teams relocate to the Los Angeles market, and where would they play?
A. One or more teams could move there in time for the 2016 season. The most logical sites are the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Rose Bowl would appear to be more attractive after recently undergoing $182 million in improvements, including new suites, club seats and refurbished locker rooms. But it seems unlikely that three NFL teams, as well as the UCLA Bruins, would play there while waiting for stadium projects to be completed.
Q. Would the market support three NFL franchises?
A. Financially, the corporate dollars are there, but fan support could be an issue once the novelty of the NFL's return to Los Angeles wears off. One reason, the region already is flooded with major professional sports teams, including two franchises each from the NBA, the NHL and MLB, as well as clubs from the MLS and WNBA. There are only so many dollars to go around among fans, particularly when factoring in the cost of personal seat licenses, tickets, parking and concessions.