Chargers leave San Diego
Fans express anger, although move was widely anticipated
SAN DIEGO — Chargers fans knew for several years this dreaded day could be coming, when their beloved NFL team would move up the freeway to tap the perceived riches of Los Angeles.
That didn’t make it any easier Thursday, when the San Diego Chargers ceased to exist after 56 seasons.
They’re now the Los Angeles Chargers, set to join the recently relocated Rams to give the nation’s second-largest media market two NFL teams for the first time since 1994.
Team chairman Dean Spanos, who tried to move to L.A. a year earlier, announced the move to his employees at a morning meeting at Chargers Park. At the same time, the team posted a letter on its Twitter account, which was rebranded as the Los Angeles Chargers.
Just like that, decades worth of Sunday afternoons spent cheering original AFL stars Lance Alworth, Keith Lincoln and John Hadl; Air Coryell guys such as Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow and Charlie Joiner; and on through to Junior Seau and LaDainian Tomlinson, became even more distant — and now bittersweet — memories.
The Chargers were born in Los Angeles in 1960 and were moved to San Diego in 1961 by Barron Hilton. They gave San Diego a unique identity, with the distinctive lightning bolt logo on their helmets and powder blue jerseys. Alworth, known as “Bambi,” and Keith Lincoln, the “Moose of the Palouse,” helped deliver the 1963 AFL title, the city’s only major championship.
In a statement, Spanos lauded the passion of the fans.
“But today, we turn the page and begin an exciting new era as the Los Angeles Chargers,” he said.
In return, fans lashed out at the family that bought the team in 1984.
As Spanos was driven to the airport to fly to Los Angeles to meet with civic officials, Chuck Homenick got close to the SUV and yelled an obscenity.
Homenick said Spanos’ decision was “pretty horrible. Born and raised here in San Diego and been going to these games, and just can’t believe they’re leaving,” Homenick said. “I knew the decision was coming up soon and I was hoping they were going to stay. Business decision, but when it comes to money vs. fan support and loyalty, they’re not going to have much fan support up in L.A.”
Joseph MacRae held a sign that read, “Alex Spanos would never leave SD! You failed us Dean.” Chargers owner Alex Spanos turned over control to his son, Dean, years ago.
“It’s really a dark day in San Diego sports history,” said MacRae, 30, wearing a Chargers jacket. He said he’d been going to Chargers games since he was 7.
Throughout the day, more fans gathered at Chargers Park. Many tossed jerseys, caps and shirts onto a growing pile in the parking lot. Someone tossed a helmet onto the pile and began smashing it with a piece of wood.
While many fans still supported the team despite several seasons of lackluster performances, they were angry at Spanos for his scorched-earth tactics the past two years.
The move had been in the works for years, as a long, bitter saga failed to result in a replacement for aging Qualcomm Stadium.
The Chargers’ decision to move comes fewer than three months after San Diego voters resoundingly rejected team-sponsored Measure C asking for $1.15 billion in increased hotel occupancy taxes to help pay for a $1.8 billion downtown stadium and convention center annex.