The Chargers, after Tuesday's resounding defeat in a ballot initiative for a new stadium in San Diego, have little recourse but to exercise their option to join the Rams in Los Angeles, according to sources close to the situation. The franchise went into this vote anticipating a defeat, but these results were more lopsided than many anticipated and leave owner Dean Spanos with little choice.
Several NFL ownership sources who have been in contact with Spanos in the past believe he will move in the wake of this defeat, an effort he sunk more than $10 million into. There is a sense that this year -- with a strong presidential race turnout, with an option to move to L.A. looming, and with some late mayoral support -- that perhaps the Chargers could get a majority. Falling this far from even that threshold was a major blow.
"If Dean stays, it's not because he thinks he can get a stadium in San Diego," one ownership source said. "It's just because he doesn't want to take the deal in Inglewood."
Several owners who share an affinity for Spanos said they believe he has few options beyond the L.A. deal.
"I guess you could stay and wait around some other option to emerge, but I'm not sure that's very feasible," another source said. "Where else is he going to go? London? San Antonio? I can't see that."
There is a possibility to get an extension of their option -- the Chargers currently must notify the Rams and the NFL of their intent to move to L.A. in January -- though league sources have been adamant throughout this process that bumping back the window by a year would do little. It is not an option the league expects the Chargers to pursue, sources said, and it only would have made some sense had the club managed to at least win 51 percent of the vote. The Chargers needed 66.7 percent for the measure to pass and received closer to 40 percent of the votes.
Sources insist there is no secret plan to be explored in the aftermath of the ballot defeat, and while Spanos will wait until after the season to formally announce plans, it would be quite surprising if the team does not relocate, many owners and people close to him believe.
Spanos has exhausted various plans over decades, expending millions of dollars and thousands of hours in the process, yet has no feasible way to secure a stadium in San Diego. The stinging defeat in the NFL's relocation vote last year, coupled with the bleak odds of securing public funding in downtown San Diego, led to the lengthy and complicated negotiations with Rams owner Stan Kroenke to finalize a deal to allow him to join the billionaire at his Inglewood site in 2019.
While the deal -- which renders the Chargers more like a tenant in the soon-to-be-constructed football palace -- is hardly a home run for Spanos, it is one he is willing to live with, sources said, and is more conducive to the long-term security of the franchise than anything in the San Diego area. Frustration has mounted over the outdated facility the team currently plays in, and the political scene in that area -- where city council reps did not support the measure -- is not likely to change anytime soon.