20 Years in the Making: NFL Team Relocating to L.A. Soon?
The short answer: Probably not, but if any team does, it will be the Rams (following the advice of The Village People - "Go West!").
Why not? Come on, does anyone in Los Angeles want a NFL team? It is very likely that all this talk will be used as leverage for new stadium deals and additional public funding because, similar to using a pawn in a larger scheme, showing demand for a product can produce more favorable results for the product owner at the negotiations table regardless of whether a true intention to follow through with the prospect ever existed. In all seriousness, Los Angeles has not been home to a professional football team since the Rams and Raiders ran out of town in 1994. Tinseltown has managed to handle two NBA teams, a MLS team, two NHL teams (one in Anaheim), and two MLB teams (one in Anaheim), but it has had issues sustaining a successful NFL franchise. Therefore, naturally, it makes sense to bring not only one team but possibly two teams to the city like a homecoming party. Right.
All professional sports leagues have objective criteria in their relocation policies. In the past, team owners have challenged the NFL on its relocation policies because they restrict competition and, therefore, technically violate federal antitrust laws standing for the general premise that any agreement to restrict trade is illegal. Relocation raises several issues pertaining to intra-league (i.e., within the NFL) and inter-league (i.e., amongst other similar professional sports markets) competition. Professional baseball is the only sport exempt from these federal laws, but so long as the restraints are net procompetitive (i.e., procompetitive benefits outweigh anticompetitive effects) for rules like the voting requirement, courts have said the restrictions are not illegal.
Packing up camp and moving would likely be too costly or a solution to the issues improbable for any of the three reportedly prospective teams: the Rams, the Raiders, and the Chargers. Franchise relocation, under the NFL Bylaws, requires at least 24 of the 32 team owners to vote in favor of the move, and that alone is difficult to muster. The League has been rolling in the dough the past two decades without a team in a city that is referred to as the second largest market. Because of that, a team owner would have a super fun time trying to campaign for the others to believe that the investment would be worthwhile. Additionally, the 49ers in San Francisco will be hosting Super Bowl 50 and have a spanking new stadium in Santa Barbara that places additional pressure and competitive issues onto the teams who would be vying for - or even sharing - a venue in L.A. to call home.
The L.A. market looks like a goldmine to NFL executives, who happen to sit in their offices 2,500 miles away in New York City, and a couple years ago the League sent a memo to team owners referring to L.A. as the league's market. It will assert control and oversee any move there, and it will make sure that the proper owner with the proper team and the proper bank accounts will land there.
For the Raiders and the Chargers, a move to L.A. would leave their loyal fan bases deserted for a town that historically has shown no loyalty to any team that has attempted to call it home. Neither team has had a stellar record, but their small but devoted consumers have stuck by their sides since their arrivals. The Raiders will be out of their stadium lease at the end of the season, and the monetary cost the Chargers would incur leaving its lease early greatly diminishes each season. With that said, the teams can use the fuel in their favor to make their fans happy and do good business by striking favorable deals in their current geographic markets. In contrast, the Rams have no contract set with its venue for next year, Rams owner Stan Kroenke actually purchased a 60 acre plot near LAX that is enough to sustain a highly developed NFL facility, and the fans in St. Louis are already accepting that the team is more or less gone. With very little holding the Rams back, the team being nothing to get excited about at the moment and possibly being a team for an entirely fresh fan base without detracting from the other Californian teams, and the owner appearing to match the League's order, the Rams will be the one to head over if anyone does.