In the past six seasons, there have been six NFL games played in London, UK with the Jacksonville Jaguars agreeing to pay four more games in the next four seasons. By contrast, it has been eighteen years since their has been an NFL game played in Los Angeles, the second biggest market in the United States. Both the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Raiders abandoned the City of Angels after playing their final games on Christmas Eve in 1994.
The history of the NFL in tinsel town dates back to 1946, when the Cleveland Rams moved into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. In their first season, the team would quickly make NFL history by signing the first two black players in the league, halfback Kenny Washington and wide receiver Woody Strode. In 1951, the Rams would win their only championship in Los Angeles, although they did field many competitive teams during their tenure in Southern California.
On the surface, it is a bit perplexing that the NFL has allowed eighteen years to pass without putting much effort into fielding a team in a massive metropolitan area which supports to two MLB teams, two NBA teams and two NHL teams. At one time, the thought of a professional hockey team in Los Angeles and no professional football team was inconceiveable.
After the less than happy endings of the Rams and Raiders in Los Angeles, the NFL is obviously in no hurry to rush into another situation which could also end up having a third team eventually move out of the area. The league is currently profitable and has extended their lucrative television contracts through 2022. This is not good news for people who may be anxious to have a team move into the area.
While the NFL is more than happy to showcase and groom teams such as the Saint Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars to play over the pond in London for a possible future permanent move, they continue to avoid Los Angeles like the plague. Even though former Raiders’ boss Al Davis passed away last year, his ghost continues to haunt the prospect of placing a team in LA. Davis’ protracted battled with former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and his “unauthorized” move of the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles is obviously still fresh in the minds of the league’s brass.
Another reason the NFL may be preventing a team from moving to Los Angeles is because the city is more valuable to the league as a bargaining chip than it would be home to a new franchise. They are obviously able to use the city of Los Angeles as leverage when negotiating with other cities who are interested in franchises. This enables them to squeeze the best possible deal out of the taxpayers of an interested city.
Apparently, the NFL’s self-interest is more important than the interests of Los Angelenos, who supported NFL teams for forty-eight years. Obviously, a brand new city with a brand new shiny stadium is more attractive to the NFL than a failed city locale with a couple of old cavernous stadiums, such as the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl.
As long as the city of Los Angeles is more beneficial to the league as a bargaining tool, local residents should not hold their breaths for a team anytime soon. Not surprisingly, if the league was floundering and in financial difficulty, Los Angeles would be on the top of the list for a team.
After having the Rams, Raiders and Al Davis’ exploits entertain them for years, the entertainment capital of the world will just have to continue to live without an NFL team. After eighteen years, which has seen a new generation of football fans arrive on the scene, it may finally be time for Los Angeles to abandon hope and stop playing a game which only benefits the league.
With the NFL’s eyeballs staring east at cities such as London, do not expect them to go west anytime soon.