Discussions around a new NFL franchise in Los Angeles have swirled since the Raiders moved back to Oakland in 1995. After all, Los Angeles is a top 3 television market in the nation and has at least one franchise in every other major sport. In fact, it’s very strange that LA does not have a team in the most popular professional sports league while the Bay Area has two and even San Diego has a team. In the past 15 years, Los Angeles has been used as leverage for existing pro teams to coerce cities into helping to pay for a stadium, otherwise they could threaten to move to LA. Many interest groups in Los Angeles have long lobbied for a team and it is accepted that the next new franchise or franchise move with bring a team there, but there is no specific date in site for this move. One event that has recently brought forth discussions of a Los Angeles move is the sale of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Shahid Khan recently bought the team from Wayne Weaver with assurances from both former and new owners that the team will stay in Jacksonville. However, Jacksonville is one of the smallest markets in the NFL, has a struggling team, a slightly outdated (1995) stadium, and so-so attendance and fan base. Jacksonville, especially with the recent sale, would seem ripe for a move to LA and there has been a lot of speculation on this point. The barriers to the move include the usual, with Jacksonville wanting to keep the team, the logistics of the new stadium in Los Angeles, and the terms of moving. Jacksonville’s agreement with the franchise includes a very large buyout for a move, something Khan, very successful but not one of the NFL’s most wealthy owners, would like to avoid. However, if the Jaguars are deemed to be losing money, he could avoid a large portion of that settlement. Now, some ethical issues come to light as the NBA lockout has shown that some creative bookkeeping can be used to show profits the way the owner would like. The Jaguars are certainly are one of the least profitable teams in the NFL, but are they actually losing money? In fact, even if they aren’t and Khan would have to pay the settlement, he could probably get Los Angeles to pay some of it and still come out well in the black with the added revenues a move to Los Angeles could bring. The proposed downtown stadium next to the Staples Center would be a huge cash cow and Los Angeles seems primed to do what is necessary to acquire a team. This situation is definitely worth monitoring as Khan’s motives become more clear.