With the recent announcement that the San Diego Chargers are moving to Los Angeles, (but plan to play in a soccer stadium which is 25 minutes from downtown); followed a week later by the Raiders officially seeking permission to relocate to Las Vegas, I figured it would be a good time to put together a summary of the fascinating and whacky history of NFL franchises in California over the past 40 years.
In part one of this piece, I touched on the various modern and current events that have changed the NFL landscape in California. Here I continue with the events of the 1980s and 90s.
1980- Los Angeles Rams move to Anaheim
Following their first SuperBowl appearance in the 1979 season, the Los Angeles Rams moved to Anaheim Stadium in nearby Orange County. In good traffic, the team’s new home in Anaheim was a 45-minute-drive from their former (and current) home at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum/ downtown Los Angeles.
1982- Oakland Raiders invade Los Angeles
When the Rams vacated L.A. for Orange County, the Oakland Raiders saw an opportunity and wanted to move into Los Angeles right away. This became a famous two-year anti-trust lawsuit and legal battle between Al Davis, his Raiders, and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum versus the NFL.
Al Davis and the Coliseum eventually won the anti-trust lawsuit against the League, and the Raiders moved into the Rams’ former (and current) home stadium in 1982. Despite the legal victory, the NFL never approved this move and viewed it as an invasion of the Rams territorial rights.
1995- L.A. Rams relocate to St. Louis
Having to share the Los Angeles metropolitan area with the glamorous Raiders, as well as conceding the City of Los Angeles itself, proved to be an unwinnable fight for the Rams. After spending 13 seasons in Anaheim they relocated to St. Louis following the 1994 season.
1995- Los Angeles Raiders return to Oakland
Unthinkably, only a few months after the Rams had relocated to St. Louis, Al Davis reached an agreement with the Alameda County Board to return the Raiders to Oakland. Had the Rams known that Raiders would be leaving L.A., their move to St. Louis likely would not have happened.
It’s my opinion that the Raiders move back to Oakland is arguably the most audacious relocation in sports history.
It occurred only a few months after the Rams had announced they were leaving for St. Louis- a move that came mostly due to the Raiders driving them out of their own territory. When the Rams had left the city of Los Angeles in 1980 for their new home in Anaheim, the NFL had assured them that the L.A. metropolitan area was theirs. The unsanctioned invasion of Los Angeles by the Raiders doomed the Rams. The audacity of Al Davis to move his team back to Oakland after the Rams had just left is hard to believe.
Amazingly, Al Davis got the best of the NFL for a second time. Despite the courts awarding Davis and the Raiders the right to move to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1982, the NFL had never officially approved the relocation; so due to legal technicalities, the NFL could not prevent the Raiders from going back to Oakland nor enforce a relocation fee.
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