After months of rumors, speculation and trial balloons, the only people who will truly decide the fate of pro football in Los Angeles began meeting on a brisk Tuesday morning at a hotel in Houston: The 32 NFL owners.
The St. Louis Rams, the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders have all formally requested to move, but only two teams at most can go. There are also two different stadium proposals: one for the Raiders and Chargers in Carson and one 14 miles to the north for the Rams in Inglewood.
On Tuesday afternoon, the six-member L.A. relocation committee voted 5-1 to endorse the Carson stadium project, according to a source within one of the teams who was told about the committee vote afterwards. The powerful group is a who’s who of NFL owners, including Steelers owner Art Rooney and Patriots owner Robert Kraft. They met Monday in Houston and last week in New York in advance of the full owners meeting.
However, any move to L.A. requires a three-fourths vote of all 32 owners, who have their own preferences and interests, and are not known for deferring to anyone. Therefore, the committee’s recommendation is just that. There is still considerable support for the competing Inglewood stadium backed by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, most visibly from Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys.
On Tuesday morning, owners heard pitches for both stadium proposals. Disney CEO Bob Iger presented the Carson plan. He was hired in November to be president of a stadium in Carson — if that project is approved.
Like others involved in the meeting, Iger walked quickly past a line of reporters without stopping to talk. At this late date, participants want to hash out disagreements behind closed doors, not in the media — at least not on the record.
Outside the hotel lobby, there were a handful of Raiders fans clad in black and white jerseys and shirts who were far more talkative.
“Oakland needs the Raiders, and the Raiders need Oakland,” said Israel Rodriguez, a Raiders fan who lives in Houston. “That’s the best spot for them.”
There was also one Chargers fan outside the hotel, Richard Farley, 18, who said he flew from San Diego to Houston to show his support for the Chargers staying where they are.
"I’ve been to countless of their games, and for them to really leave has been disappointing," said Farley. “It’s like getting a shot at the doctor’s office, but instead of the arm it’s like the heart.”
L.A. has been without pro football for two decades. Changing that requires a three-fourths vote from owners, a level of consensus that so far has proved elusive. But owners are determined to hatch a solution quickly, because tickets need to be sold and logistics nailed down for wherever the Chargers, Raiders and Rams will be playing next season.
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This story has been updated.