San Diego Sues the NFL for Relocating the Chargers to Los Angeles

Updated: Jul 21



San Diego, California is taking a page from St. Louis, Missouri’s playbook. In a report from “Conduct Detrimental” co-host Dan Wallach and St. Louis NBC affiliate, KSDK, they filed suit against the NFL for relocating the Chargers from San Diego to Los Angeles after the plaintiffs recently gained access to the Spanos’ family handling of the Chargers. They claim they are a third-party beneficiary, like St. Louis claimed, and the NFL Relocation Policy was not followed correctly by the NFL. They allege they were fraudulently misrepresented, the NFL was unjustly enriched, San Diego was a third-party beneficiary from the relocation, and the Spanos family delayed the discovery process by concealing documents regarding the Chargers’ relocation and the Spanos’ ownership of the Chargers.


The Spanos family owns the Chargers, and they are in their own litigation mess. San Diego is claiming they negotiated in good faith, and they formed a committee that proposed plans to Dean Spanos for a new stadium in 2003, but they claim Mr. Spanos made his mind up to relocate the Chargers to Los Angeles as early as 2006. An interesting nugget is once the Chargers relocated from San Diego to Los Angeles, a clause stated the city could not bring suit against the NFL for any matter involving the Chargers and their relocation. An obstacle is the statute of limitations, as more than four years has passed for their lawsuit. St. Louis settled with the NFL for $790 million in November.


San Diego is hoping to follow St. Louis’ blueprint to either receive a monetary settlement to pay the outstanding bonds taxpayers must pay from Qualcomm Stadium’s construction, and they believe the NFL relocated the Chargers without giving San Diego a fighting chance to prove they had the best intentions to keep the Chargers. The Chargers played their inaugural season in Los Angeles, but they relocated to San Diego. They became a fixture in San Diego until 2017, when they officially relocated to Los Angeles, ironically in Carson at a 35,000 seat soccer stadium.


Carson was a plan where the Chargers and Raiders would relocate there when those owner meetings went on in Houston on January 12th, 2016. These meetings decided the Chargers’ Raiders’ and Rams’ fates regarding their relocation proposals. The owners voted 30-2 in favor of Enos Stanley Kroenke’s Inglewood Project. The two “no” voters were Michael Bidwill and Jerry Richardson, owners of the Cardinals and Panthers respectively. The Carson project had a 4-1 NFL Relocation Committee advantage prior to the Houston meetings, the lone “no” vote was Clark Hunt, who owns the Kansas City Chiefs. Hunt believed in stability, but relocating the Rams from Missouri to California is not stability.


Back to the main story, the Chargers and the Spanos family were given the first choice of whether to relocate with the Rams to Inglewood in 2017, and Dean Spanos accepted the choice. Dean Spanos did not have to construct the stadium or pour any money into the stadium, now known as SOFI Stadium. The Chargers pay Kroenke and the Rams $1 to lease as the stadium’s tenants. They have their own locker room within the stadium, as do the Rams. The Chargers are the major victors because for a dollar, they reap in the profits from SOFI Stadium with the Rams, their only major monetary payment was the $500 million relocation fee, split among the other 31 NFL owners. The plaintiffs argue San Diego appointed a committee, similar to St. Louis’ task force, to develop new stadium ideas for the aging Qualcomm Stadium.


Their argument lacks the background behind their claims that the NFL acted fraudulently towards San Diego. The NFL did not make it open and obvious they misrepresented San Diego like they did towards St. Louis. They gave Spanos first opportunity to relocate with the Rams because Spanos is well-liked among the other thirty-one owners. The city did not present a viable stadium plan as St. Louis did with National Car Rental Field. There is no history showing Spanos had the intent to relocate, where Kroenke had the intent as early as 2003, when he was on the NFL’s Los Angeles committee when he was a minority owner of the St. Louis Rams. San Diego has an uphill battle in front of them, but if they follow the route St. Louis took in their suit against the NFL, six years from now, they may receive a nine figure settlement.


Alex Patterson is a 3L at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. He played football for seventeen years as an offensive and defensive lineman. He graduated from Lindenwood University-Belleville in 2018 with a Bachelor's in Sports Management. He can be followed on Twitter @alpatt71.