City Seal The City of San Diego
HomeContact the City
City Seal
City Seal Business City Hall Community Departments Information Leisure Services A-Z Visiting
Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues
Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues Home About the Task Force Task Force Meetings Documents
Documents

San Diego Union-Tribune

TIM SULLIVAN

City needs measured response to Chargers' itchy trigger finger

March 6, 2003

Abstract:
Maybe losing the Chargers is an acceptable risk at this point, but maybe that attitude simply reflects the heat of this particular moment. Maybe it's time to stop reacting to the Chargers' every move and manipulation, to take a cue from these cold-blooded businessmen and concentrate on the bottom line.

Yet even if the Chargers are sincere about staying put, exercising their trigger while the L.A. market beckons places San Diego in a wobbly seat at the bargaining table. Local authorities may seek to enforce the Chargers' contract through court proceedings, and they will surely seek confirmation that the team satisfies the triggering criteria. Still, anyone who would bank on a legal strategy can be assured only of bankrolling lawyers.

Pressing the Chargers for proof of their right to trigger is a prudent step -- "Trust, but verify," quoth Ronald Reagan -- but it does not constitute a coherent strategy. No city has yet succeeded in holding a team against its will. If the Chargers come to be seen as a lame duck, the city's obligations under the ticket guarantee could shift from onerous to ruinous. (Thank you, Susan Golding).



Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Mar 6, 2003

Mark Fabiani specializes in damage control, but there are days when the most skilled spin doctor must perform meatball surgery.

A day after the Chargers invoked their contractual right to reopen negotiations with the city of San Diego, Fabiani's job was to put a happy face on harsh realities. He tried to paint the football team's tactics as procedural rather than belligerent, and the fallout as inevitable but impermanent.

"If you look at the situations in other cities, you always have bumps in the road," Fabiani said of stadium politics. "You always have acrimony. The challenge for us is to not get thrown off by the bumps."

It is too soon to say whether this latest bump is a figurative flat tire or a metaphorical bent axle. The initial response to the Chargers' triggering notice was dominated by expressions of public outrage and political opportunism. Suffice it to say, Dean Spanos would be hard-pressed to win a popularity contest right now against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

But here's the thing: Once everyone has had a chance to vent, San Diego will still need a Chargers strategy. Either the community comes to grips with the problem of its free-agent franchise or it risks letting the team flee without a fight.

Maybe losing the Chargers is an acceptable risk at this point, but maybe that attitude simply reflects the heat of this particular moment. Maybe it's time to stop reacting to the Chargers' every move and manipulation, to take a cue from these cold-blooded businessmen and concentrate on the bottom line.

Those who expressed shock at the Chargers' decision to exercise their trigger -- including Mayor Dick Murphy, fresh from his prolonged hibernation -- are at best naive and at worst disingenuous. This is hardball, people, not freeze tag. It's silly to pretend otherwise.

"This is just Day One of a 90-day (negotiating) window," said Geoff Patnoe of the Citizens Task Force on Chargers Issues. "The rhetoric and reaction the first day out leads me to believe it may be difficult to bring this debate back to where it was a few days ago. Ultimately, we could find ourselves back in that same mind- set. But this (trigger) has certainly set things back."

The National Football League does nothing delicately. It does not ask permission before plundering the coffers of cash-poor cities, and it does not apologize for playing one town against another. It operates with the rough manners of a monopoly and the insatiable appetite of a tapeworm.

Now, it's San Diego's turn. With the NFL eager to fill the football void in Los Angeles and the Chargers owning the league's most loophole-ridden lease, Team Spanos is using its contractual leverage to seek a sweeter deal. The idea du jour involves the team assuming all stadium construction costs in exchange for development rights at the 166-acre Qualcomm site.

The Chargers insist it is not their "intention" to discuss relocation with other cities during the 90-day negotiating window, but that threat is implicit and potentially intimidating.

With the Rose Bowl making a presentation to NFL owners Tuesday in Palm Beach, the timing of the Chargers' trigger announcement fed suspicions that a move to Pasadena may already be in the works. If Pasadena can finance Rose Bowl renovations, the competition to lay claim to the L.A. market may come to resemble the Oklahoma Land Rush.

"Teams looking to go to L.A. would include Oakland, might include Indianapolis, San Diego, Minnesota, and I wouldn't be surprised if there are other teams," one NFL executive said yesterday. "They're all trying to get there first."

Yet even if the Chargers are sincere about staying put, exercising their trigger while the L.A. market beckons places San Diego in a wobbly seat at the bargaining table. Local authorities may seek to enforce the Chargers' contract through court proceedings, and they will surely seek confirmation that the team satisfies the triggering criteria. Still, anyone who would bank on a legal strategy can be assured only of bankrolling lawyers.

"I shudder when I hear people say, `Let's just litigate because that will slow them down,' " said the Task Force's Bruce Henderson. "The Spanos family can out-wait us. Going to court for delay -- that's a ludicrous argument. You need to find out what the facts are. Then, if you have a good case, present it."

Pressing the Chargers for proof of their right to trigger is a prudent step -- "Trust, but verify," quoth Ronald Reagan -- but it does not constitute a coherent strategy. No city has yet succeeded in holding a team against its will. If the Chargers come to be seen as a lame duck, the city's obligations under the ticket guarantee could shift from onerous to ruinous. (Thank you, Susan Golding).

The alternative -- as distasteful as it might seem -- is to negotiate, to put this bump in the road in the rear-view mirror and find a more desirable destination.

"I think no matter when this (trigger) happened, it wasn't going to play well with certain people," Mark Fabiani said. "The fact that it didn't play well is something we didn't have a choice over. There's no good day (to do it).

"But this is not like a football game where everyone is keeping score all the time. If you can deliver a deal that makes sense, people will rally around it and if you can't, they won't."

By triggering their renegotiation clause, the Chargers force us to listen.

Tim Sullivan: (619) 293-1033



| Citizens' Task Force Home | About the Task Force | Task Force Meetings | Documents | Top of Page |
Site Map Privacy Notice Disclaimers