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Tuesday the City Council and Board of Supervisors approved a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in finding a new home for the San Diego Chargers. Since what we now call Qualcomm Stadium was financed and built through a similar cooperative agreement between the city and county in the 1960s, you might expect the Chargers would greet the prospect of renewed cooperation between these entities with enthusiasm.
You would be wrong. Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani responded with a mixture of disinterest and disdain. He questioned why the Chargers hadn’t been consulted and criticized the city and county for not including Chula Vista and National City – two cities that have shown interest in hosting the team – in the agreement. Neither objection appears to have merit. Behind the scenes, Charger backers have been encouraging the city and county to consider a joint powers authority for some time. And representatives from Chula Vista and National City were quick to express support for the concept, knowing that by themselves neither city can pull off a deal this big.
So why the Chargers’ negative response to a development they should view as encouraging? Cynics have suggested for some time that the team owners really don’t want to stay in San Diego; that what we’re really witnessing is an elaborately choreographed exit strategy. They say the Chargers are just going through the motions with Chula Vista and National City, marking time until January when they can begin formal talks with cities outside San Diego County.
But that raises the obvious question: Why bother? The new lease they negotiated with former Mayor Dick Murphy allows them to begin a national search in January whether they pursue local options first or not. One possible explanation is that NFL rules require approval of such a move by a super-majority of league owners. That might lead some to think what we’re really watching is a campaign by the team to convince other NFL owners that they’ve done everything they can to stay in San Diego, but have been left with no choice but to seek a new home.