Los Angeles has been without a football team since 1995 when the Rams moved to St. Louis and the Raiders returned to Oakland. As the nation’s second largest metropolitan area, it seems odd that the NFL wouldn’t have a single team call LA its home. Talk of finding a team for LA, either by expansion or by relocation, has been growing while the civic leaders clear the path for a possible new stadium.
It may be that the NFL would be foolish not to take advantage of such a large market, but perhaps the current 32 teams are better off leaving LA wanting for a team.
Without a team there, they sacrifice the exposure and revenue LA can provide. On the other hand, a team-less LA might provide the 32 NFL teams much more. As it currently stands, any team trying to wrangle a new stadium or other major concession from its home city and state has a credible threat of a lucrative destination.
If Vikings owner Zigi Wilf wants a new stadium, with LA in the mix, he’s likely to get more cooperation from Minnesotans, fans and government alike. If Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver is seeking deep discounts on his lease or a bigger share of the stadium concessions, he’ll get a better reception with LA as a suitor than if Portland or Oklahoma City were the next best alternatives.
In fact, here are the 10 largest US cities without an NFL team: Los Angeles, CA; San Antonio, TX; San Jose, CA; Columbus, OH; Austin, TX; Memphis, TN; El Paso, TX; Louisville, KY; Las Vegas, NV; and Portland, OR.
I don’t think the good fans of Minnesota are losing much sleep worrying about the El Paso Vikings, but they are worried about LA, the city that took their Lakers.
So perhaps the current 32 NFL teams are better off without a team in LA. Sure, putting a team in a big market like LA may be more profitable than the better deal that an individual team can extract from its current city, but consider how the effect multiplies across several teams. Teams in marginal markets like Buffalo, Jacksonville, Minneapolis, Nashville, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Charlotte, San Diego and others gain bargaining leverage thanks to the credible alternative that LA represents.