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The message NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave to San Diego leaders Wednesday was clear: If you want to keep the Chargers, you can’t have a public vote.
A vote has been the bedrock of Chargers stadium plans forever, and Mayor Kevin Faulconer has committed to holding one before he would hand over the $350 million in public funds he’s offered the team.
But Goodell said that all three cities whose teams are threatening to move to Los Angeles – San Diego, Oakland and St. Louis – needed to deliver final plans to the league by Dec. 28 and that those plans must have “certainty.”
“Certainty means no further votes required, that there is a deal that is fully approved, that there are not complications that are unforeseen, that this project can be completed. It’s that simple,” Goodell said at the league’s owners meeting outside Dallas, according to the Union-Tribune.
Cities that didn’t have certain plans were out of the running, Goodell said. He specifically called out San Diego as not meeting the league’s requirements right now.
For months, the league has sent signals that a public vote was too pesky. St. Louis officials even wriggled out of one there earlier this year, one of the main reasons that city is seen as ahead of San Diego in the stadium funding game.
Most recently, NFL attorneys told San Diego officials the vote was a big risk in the city’s plan. (The city responded by saying the mayor is so popular a vote would be no big deal – though we’ve detailed the myriad reasons its chances would hardly be a slam dunk.)
Even if Faulconer were to abandon his public vote pledge, it’s unclear if he’d be able to get things done to the NFL’s liking at this late stage. In any case, the City Council and County Board of Supervisors would have to sign off on the plan. And then there’s any prospective challenge to the city’s environmental review of the project.
But that’s not going to happen, the mayor said. His spokesman, Matt Awbrey, said the mayor’s commitment to a public vote is “unwavering.”
The impasse between the city, league and team that’s been coming for a while is finally here. The NFL’s machinations might not result in the Chargers leaving San Diego. But as the U-T’s editorial board put it Thursday morning, San Diego doesn’t have a say in what happens anymore.