Los Angeles and the Business of Football

Today in sports news: The NFL season has begun, and Los Angeles still doesn't have a football franchise. Nor does it have an NFL stadium, despite the efforts of city council members to gift a stadium to any team owner willing to move.

Thankfully, Los Angeles also doesn't have a mayor who's pinned his political future on getting a team and giving away the farm (or Farmer's Field).

Mayor Garcetti learned from former Mayor Villaraigosa, whose legacy has been reduced to shilling for a nutritional supplements distributor and warning future mayors about promising what can't be delivered. When Rick Jacobs, Garcetti's deputy chief of staff, told Dalmatia News in early September that begging for a football team is "not a priority" for Garcetti, no one in the mayor's office took back that plain statement.

Los Angeles does have a number of city council members who like to play fantasy football. Last week, the members of the council's Economic Development Committee adopted a resolution urging the NFL to bring not one but two teams to Los Angeles.

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Councilman Tom LaBonge, riffing on an immemorial sales pitch, told reporters that it "puzzles me why, out of 32 teams, one doesn't want to come here to sunny Southern California."

If LaBonge thinks that our balmy climate will persuade a football mogul to move, he hasn't been reading these posts (here, here, and here) at KCET's SoCal Focus.

Instead of sunshine, the Wall Street Journal has come up with a truly odious motive. Calculating the cost of the league's settlement with former players over their concussion related injuries, team owners might want to auction off an expansion franchise just to protect their revenue stream.

According to Marc Edleman in the WSJ:

If the NFL can sell an expansion franchise for just $1.275 billion -- a reasonable amount in light of recent franchise sales -- this amount would fully offset the cost to paying off the recent concussion settlement, even presuming a 40% tax on the franchise sale. Of course, there is an opportunity cost to the NFL selling a 33rd franchise. In addition to the inconvenience of an odd number of teams (something the NFL could avoid by selling two franchises rather than one), if the NFL expands into Los Angeles it can no longer use the threat of moving an existing team to Los Angeles as a way of frightening cities that are unwilling to build new stadiums for their franchises.

The plight of NFL owners almost brings tears (presumably the owners' own). Either they give up profits equal to a fraction of what they pay current players or give up the L.A. bogeyman that gets taxpayer concessions from cities in which NFL teams currently play.

What's a billionaire owner to do, caught between greed and blood money?

But who cares, anyway? So many seasons have passed since an NFL team last played in this town that 24 percent of Angeleños were in diapers when the Rams departed. So many trial balloons for a stadium have been lofted -- downtown, the Coliseum, the gravel pits of Irwindale, Dodger Stadium -- that it was hardly news when the idea of a Hollywood Park stadium was floated and drifted away.

I hear that NFL owners are whipping up enthusiasm for an expansion team in London. I know a snake oil salesman who's good at that sort of thing. Has anyone from the NFL called Tony Villaraigosa?

About the Author

D. J. Waldie is the author of "Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir" and "Where We Are Now: Notes from Los Angeles." He is a contributing editor for the Los Angeles Times.
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