Fact Check: Public Ownership of the Chargers

Fact Check: Public Ownership of the Chargers

File photo by Sam Hodgson

San Diego Chargers fans

 

Image: trueStatement: “The NFL bylaws … prohibit public ownership (partial or otherwise) of NFL teams,” mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher wrote in response to a VOSD survey published Dec. 8.

Determination: True

Analysis: The Chargers’ nearly decade-long search for a new stadium is expected to reach a turning point next year. The team and Mayor Jerry Sanders want to put a proposal on the November 2012 ballot.

They’re still hashing out the proposal’s details, but both have highlighted public subsidies as a major component of funding an estimated $800 million downtown stadium. Sanders’ spokesman told San Diego Newsroom last week that the public could be asked to pick up half the stadium’s bill.

With the stadium search heating up alongside the election to succeed Sanders, we asked the mayoral candidates to consider an idea from one of their competitors, Bob Filner. If the public provides subsidies for a stadium, Filner suggested at an Oct. 19 debate, it should get a share of the team’s ownership.

Of the election’s other high-profile candidates, Carl DeMaio and Bonnie Dumanis both avoided our question and instead described how they would generally negotiate with the Chargers.

But unlike his peers, Nathan Fletcher did respond directly to our question. He called Filner’s idea unrealistic.

“Bob Filner apparently failed to read the NFL bylaws, which prohibit public ownership (partial or otherwise) of NFL teams,” Fletcher wrote. “The Green Bay Packers are an exception, grandfathered in when the league was originally formed.”

The NFL’s rules don’t allow public ownership, partial or otherwise. Article III specifically prohibits ownership by any not-for-profit organization like local government.

NBC Sports recently examined the rule for another debate halfway across the country. The Minnesota Vikings are also seeking a new football stadium, and a state lawmaker suggested sharing ownership in exchange for public money.

NBC Sports put the scenario to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, who responded, “It is not permissible under our ownership policies. There is no public ownership permitted.”

OK, but what about the Green Bay Packers, which recently sold stock to reduce borrowing for a $143 million stadium expansion? NBC Sports confirmed the background on that puzzler, too:

The Packers are publicly owned because they became publicly owned at a time when league rules permitted it. Besides, it would be hard for one person to go out and buy up all the stock. Under current rules, no public ownership is permitted, regardless of how much the majority owner retains.

Since Fletcher accurately cited the NFL’s rules, we’ve rated his statement True.

Before putting this idea completely to rest, however, it’s worth noting that rules can change. In 1997, for example, Major League Baseball started allowing public ownership on the condition that a private owner maintain a majority of the stock. The next year, the Cleveland Indians sold public shares and raised $60 million.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about public safety and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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19 comments
Will Dawson
Will Dawson subscriber

Public ownership would require outside auditing and a true window into how $ is made by the NFL The 1 % elite owners do not want that!

Sandawg
Sandawg

Public ownership would require outside auditing and a true window into how $ is made by the NFL The 1 % elite owners do not want that!

shawn fox
shawn fox subscriber

This fact check isn't very convincing. They quoted a bylaw prohibiting not-for-profit public ownership. What about for-profit ownership like a corporation? Is the team not allowed to be incorporated either?

shawn1874
shawn1874

This fact check isn't very convincing. They quoted a bylaw prohibiting not-for-profit public ownership. What about for-profit ownership like a corporation? Is the team not allowed to be incorporated either?

Will Dawson
Will Dawson subscriber

$ 1,000,000,000 bond issue without interest for 30 years is $ 34,000,000 a year!

Sandawg
Sandawg

$ 1,000,000,000 bond issue without interest for 30 years is $ 34,000,000 a year!

Will Dawson
Will Dawson subscriber

$ 1,000,000,000.00 gift to the Spanos! It can't be done and it won't be done so move on to the real world!

Sandawg
Sandawg

$ 1,000,000,000.00 gift to the Spanos! It can't be done and it won't be done so move on to the real world!

Bob Jones
Bob Jones subscriber

When politicians sit down with the big money boys anything can happen no matter how ludicrous it may seem to the citizenry.

rwj5125
rwj5125

When politicians sit down with the big money boys anything can happen no matter how ludicrous it may seem to the citizenry.

michael-leonard
michael-leonard subscriber

If you truly can't believe it you are very naive. Just look at the ballpark and convention center for previews.

mlcred
mlcred

If you truly can't believe it you are very naive. Just look at the ballpark and convention center for previews.

joshuajay619
joshuajay619

I wonder, with the state of the economy, if the NFL would consider the change that MLB made to allow minority ownership by public entities? Highly doubtful. But, that does sound nice.

joseph olivas
joseph olivas subscriber

Comments by ibphotos and mathteacher are both true. Nothing to add except that what they say is completely valid!

josepho858
josepho858

Comments by ibphotos and mathteacher are both true. Nothing to add except that what they say is completely valid!

Edmund Deaton
Edmund Deaton subscribermember

Mr. Spanos can build any stadium he desires, provided he does it himself. It would be ethically wrong for citizens to give him money when there are a large number of homeless people sleeping on the streets. These people need our help. Mr. Spanos should get in line, he might even spend a night on the streets to see what a real welfare recipient needs.

mathteacher
mathteacher

Mr. Spanos can build any stadium he desires, provided he does it himself. It would be ethically wrong for citizens to give him money when there are a large number of homeless people sleeping on the streets. These people need our help. Mr. Spanos should get in line, he might even spend a night on the streets to see what a real welfare recipient needs.

robert lopo
robert lopo subscriber

Without a direct cut of the revenue from all sources of income generated at a stadium, investing in that stadium is a waste of money. Maybe we could convince the NFL to rely on room tax and trickle down sales tax to repay it's 400 million investment.

ibphotos
ibphotos

Without a direct cut of the revenue from all sources of income generated at a stadium, investing in that stadium is a waste of money. Maybe we could convince the NFL to rely on room tax and trickle down sales tax to repay it's 400 million investment.