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‘Football is family:’ Just ask Chargers fans

Chris Freud

Instead of running those commercials about how "Football is Family," maybe the NFL should run some 30-second spots with its collective middle finger extended.

Last year, the Rams left St. Louis for Los Angeles and late Wednesday night, the San Diego Chargers announced they will also be joining them.

And, you can bet the Oakland Raiders are not far behind when it comes to calling the moving trucks.

While local football fans doubtless detest the Raiders and are not fond of the Chargers, you should not be feeling good about the geographic relocation of the AFC West.

This is nothing but a shameless money grab by the owners of these franchises and the NFL. Yes, the Chargers started in Los Angeles with the founding of the old American Football League in 1960 for one year before moving south to San Diego. Yes, the NFL should probably have a franchise in the country's second largest media market.

But San Diego supported the Chargers for 56 years — most of them mediocre, a record of 416-427-11 with only one AFL title back in 1962 and one Super Bowl appearance after the 1994 season — and, for its troubles, doesn't even get a parting gift.

Basic math

Any claim about an NFL team losing money is bogus. The league's collective bargaining agreement makes owning a team a license to mint money. The NFL's 32, by and large, share television and merchandising money equally, the exception being the Dallas Cowboys, who somehow have managed to wiggle out of sharing their loot.

Since the Green Bay Packers are the league's only publicly-owned team, they give an insight into the kind of money we're talking. According to Bloomberg.com, each team got $226 million from shared revenue before the 2015 season began. The NFL salary cap for 2015 was $143 million.

So every team in the league including the Chargers made $83 million before they sold a ticket, a beer or a luxury suite. And, while Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium was not a modern facility by NFL standards, it still had 113 "executive suites," aka revenue-producing skyboxes as well as club seating, read prime seating with a higher price tag for food and beverage.

Alex Spanos, the patriarch of the family that owns the team, bought a majority share of the team for $48 million in 1984. Forbes magazine, in 2015, valued the Chargers at $995 million. The Spanos family, now headed by Spanos' son Dean, is worth $2.4 billion, according to Forbes.

Turning a minimum $80 million annual profit as well possibly reaping $950 million on one's original investment isn't enough?

Apparently not.

And that is why the Chargers are headed north to "Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park."

Hostage holding

The Chargers tried to get San Diego to build a new stadium and the city wisely said no. The Spanos family was willing to put in $350 million toward the latest iteration of a new stadium, expected to cost $1.1-1.5 billion with the city picking up the rest of the tab. How disgusting is that?

And this is part of a trend — give us money or we're leaving. The Rams left Los Angeles in 1994 for a state-of-the-art stadium in St. Louis. And when that stadium wasn't modern enough 21 years later, back to L.A. they came. St. Louis is still paying off the Edwards Jones Dome/The Dome at America's Center.

The Raiders, who are no strangers to a nomadic existence, having already moved from Oakland to L.A. and back, are now eyeing Las Vegas. And, yes, Oakland is still paying off the renovations, made to lure the Raiders back the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum in 1995.

The Raiders are good as gone in Oakland. It's just a matter of when.

The Georgia Dome, all of 24 years old, is already being replaced by a new facility for the Atlanta Falcons next season. The price tag is a projected $1.5 billion. The Buffalo Bills are next on the clock when it comes to a replacement to New Era Field, aka Ralph Wilson Stadium.

And what happens when an NFL team wakes up one day and realizes it doesn't have the shiniest, newest stadium and demands a new one? The Broncos' future with owner Pat Bowlen seems secure. With Bowlen battling Alzheimer's, the team is in a family trust.

But imagine the pain this state would feel if the Broncos left for somewhere else? It would be inconceivable. The Broncos are Denver/Colorado, the region's once-and-always flagship franchise. How would you feel about the Las Vegas Broncos? (Yeah, that was strange to type.)

If you want to know, just ask a Chargers fan today. The NFL just told them what they're worth.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached by calling 970-748-2934, emailing cfreud@vaildaily.com and on the Twitter machine @cfreud.