SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A lawsuit has been filed against the National Football League alleging that the league and officials with the Chargers violated NFL relocation policies when team owners approved the Chargers’ move from San Diego to Los Angeles.
The suit was filed by former San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre and former San Diego Chief Deputy City Attorney Maria Severson on behalf of San Diego resident Ruth Henricks. The league, all NFL team owners and the city of San Diego are named as defendants.
According to the suit, a demand was made to the city of San Diego to file suit, but “with no response, this taxpayer action is filed.”
The suit filed Monday in San Diego Superior Court alleges that even with the team taking millions in taxpayer dollars and despite numerous efforts from city leaders to keep the team in San Diego, Chargers owner Dean Spanos “had already made up his mind to move the team to Los Angeles” by 2006.
The complaint cites a quote from former NFL official Jim Steeg, who told the San Diego Union-Tribune last month that Spanos had already planned the relocation, “It just took him 10 years to do it.”
Spanos told Chargers fans in a 1997 public statement that the team would remain in San Diego unless the franchise suffered “severe financial hardship,” yet according to the lawsuit, Spanos “broke his word” two decades later and announced the Los Angeles move despite the Chargers being worth more than $1 billion as of 2017.
The lawsuit alleges the NFL and the Chargers breached the league’s relocation policy by failing to negotiate in good faith with city officials over retaining the team locally and concealing that a move was in the works since 2006.
It alleges that despite “a substantial expenditure of public funds” related to establishing a new San Diego stadium or upgrading the existing stadium, “there were no good faith negotiations from the Chargers or the NFL” and “the team did not meet with the community nor the city in any meaningful way.”
Mayor Todd Gloria and City Attorney Mara Elliott issued a joint statement that said, “Suing the National Football League is a costly and uphill battle, as Mr. Aguirre himself has stated in interviews, and his lawsuit on behalf of taxpayers is at its earliest stage. Given that city taxpayers would be the recipient of any damages and restitution the court may award if litigation prevails, we wish Mr. Aguirre success in this effort.
According to the U-T, Gloria told a citizen that San Diego was not in a position to pursue the same legal strategy as the city of St. Louis, who received a $790 million settlement after the Rams moved to Los Angeles in 2016.
“Unfortunately, previous administrations in the city of San Diego twice waived the city’s rights to any claim against the NFL and the Chargers for relocation after the 2008 NFL season,” Gloria replied to the citizen via email, the paper reports.
“If St. Louis is good enough to recover $790 million, San Diego is good enough to recover their losses as well,” Aguirre said during a news conference Wednesday.
“The very time that league rules were being violated in St. Louis, they were also being violated in San Diego,” Aguirre added. “We had a 55-year relationship with the Chargers. Our fans were amongst the most loyal fans and they took an emotional hit which they still have not recovered from.”
“There was ticket guarantees up to 60,000 attendees the city would have to pay if there was any shortfall of that, and there were subsidies provided with San Diego city taxpayer dollars to keep the Chargers here,” Severson said at the news conference. “The Chargers leave and pay all the other teams but they don’t pay anything to San Diego. Those teams were unjustly enriched. They got something for allowing the Chargers to leave San Diego, and the City of San Diego got nothing.”
“Representations that the Chargers made in order to string city officials along to give ever-increasing and additional subsidies, and all along it seems that the Chargers’ plan for the owners was to pull the team out of San Diego and get them to the L.A. market,” Severson continued.
FOX 5 reached out to the Chargers but had yet to hear back Wednesday evening.
A hearing in the case is set for July.
FOX 5’s Misha DiBono contributed to this report.
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