Bruce Henderson still predicting doom for San Diego deal with Chargers

"The Chargers have a tremendous incentive to move up to Los Angeles"

In an interview published in the Reader on December 16, 1999, former San Diego city councilman Bruce Henderson put his finger on the trigger clause, a loophole in the city's 1995 contract with the Chargers. The trigger clause would allow the team, should they wish, to move the franchise to Los Angeles. Everyone, including then-mayor Susan Golding, denied that such a loophole existed.

Declared Henderson in the 1999 interview, "I believe this is the only NFL franchise that can, without any fear of breaching its contract, start asking people to make offers to them to move their team."

Henderson went on to say, "So obviously the logical thing, right now, as of January 1, is for [Chargers owner] Alex Spanos to have maneuvered himself so that he can trigger the salary cap. Under Section 31 of the agreement, if salaries and benefits paid to Chargers team members exceed 75 percent of certain NFL revenues, calculated using a per-team average, then Spanos can shop the team to other cities such as L.A. Now, I don't know what the actual numbers are for 1999, but the point is that the experts say that it's fairly easy to exceed the salary cap, particularly if you've got a situation like the Chargers have right now, where they entered into a contract with a very expensive quarterback, [Ryan Leaf]."

Henderson forecast in 1999, "Then the Chargers can go out, shop the team, and negotiate. Say they, the Chargers, start in January of 2000 quietly negotiating up in Los Angeles. I say quietly, because as far as I can tell under the contract, there seems to be no requirement that they notify anyone that they are engaged in negotiations. Then, say they come back to the city and give them notice that the salary cap has been exceeded and they would like to renegotiate the contract.

"Well, then the City and Chargers negotiate for the first of two periods lasting 90 days. At the same time, the Chargers can continue negotiations in L.A. If the Chargers don't reach a new agreement with the City acceptable to the Chargers, then the Chargers have 18 months to finalize the L.A. negotiations. At that point, when they've finalized the deal in Los Angeles, they have to present to San Diego this offer, say, from Los Angeles, and San Diego has a period of 90 days to match it."

Matt Potter (in the 1999 interview): When you say "match it," what's that mean?

BH: "Well, presumably, say the Chargers find a coalition of people in the city of Los Angeles who agree to pay the NFL $500 million to move the team to Los Angeles and provide the Chargers with a stadium seating 100,000. The Chargers bring this offer back to San Diego and say that if you -- that is, San Diego -- match it, we'll keep the team here in San Diego.

"And you have 90 days to raise the money -- make the decision and raise the money. Well, of course, the likelihood of the City of San Diego being able to raise $500 million is unlikely, let alone agreeing to construct a new stadium seating 100,000. And that would be pretty much a minimum offer to the NFL and the Chargers. After all, when the expansion team went to Houston, the NFL was paid, I think, $700 million."

Today, a little more than three years later, Henderson, 59, who represented the sixth council district, is now a veteran of Mayor Dick Murphy's Chargers task force. He is still predicting certain doom for the city's attempts to keep the team, unless it takes strong legal measures to enforce its original contract. In an interview last week, he provided a post mortem of the task force's confused work, critiqued some of his fellow task-force members, and offered a set of guidelines that, he insists, must be followed if there is any chance to stave off the team's move to Los Angeles.

"I got on the task force, and then the first thing that happens to me is that the chairman, Mr. Watson -- who had the advantage of representing, as an attorney, Sea World and the Zoo -- he comes to me and he says, 'Bruce, I want you to be the chair of the contracts committee,' which was the committee that was set up to handle all the legal issues regarding the Chargers agreement. And so I say, well, fine, I'd be happy to do that.

"So we have a meeting, an organizational meeting, with the city attorney's office about the contracts committee, and Watson walks in and sits down and says, well, the first thing he announces is that he is going to be chairman of the contracts committee! And I didn't say anything. I didn't want to get into a confrontation with him about it."

Henderson says he saw the hand of City Attorney Casey Gwynn.

"I think that there were a couple of things. One was that they were afraid that I would try again to focus on the city attorney's role and its fundamental failure to protect the city against these catastrophic clauses in the contract that they had been fully warned about in 1996.

"So afterwards I said something to [Watson] and he said, 'Well, that was just a hullabaloo when I privately announced that you were going to be chair.' But he wouldn't tell me who put the pressure on.

"But, in any event, a week goes by, and suddenly I find out that Watson isn't going to be the chair but the person who is going to be chair is [Len Simon], another attorney on the task force [who works for Milberg, Weiss]. And so, well, I go, 'Fine.'

"But then we start holding our contracts-committee meetings, and I find that, as chair, Simon first makes it very clear that under no circumstances will we spend any time reviewing what happened in 1995 or 1997 to figure out what went wrong.

"Even though I say to them, look, you know, when things go badly wrong, lots of times to figure out how you're going to deal with the same party -- like, if you're the Chargers in the future -- learn how to deal with them in order to avoid those mistakes. Well, they would have nothing of that, you know. And then Simon went beyond that and he said, 'Well, we shouldn't even really look closely at the trigger. We just aren't gonna do that.' So that's when I started writing a number of letters to the task force where I did the analysis of the trigger clause.

"And in fact, you'll see that the contracts-committee report that was delivered to the council in November, it has as a footnote -- it notes that I sent three letters to the contracts committee, and I think this must have been Watson who insisted that at least Simon include my letters as a footnote and simply say to the council, you know, they oughta be read, you know.

"But he absolutely wouldn't deal with the issues and kept insisting that the only thing that really counted was to just sit down and negotiate with the Chargers. His attitude being that they seemed ready, willing to negotiate with us and we could have some really fruitful discussions with them. And I kept insisting, of course, that they weren't; the only thing they were going to do was trigger.

"You know, they had a contract that was almost completely in their favor. It had provisions in it that made it almost impossible for the City of San Diego to keep them here if the Chargers wanted to leave. And as Dean [Spanos, 52], son of owner Alex Spanos [79] had said, a contract is a contract, and they were going to stand on those provisions, and they were going to insist that the letter of the contract be followed line by line by line, and they weren't going to give on anything.

"And of course, Simon came back and insisted, 'No, no, no, that's not true. I mean, this is just like a normal landlord-tenant relationship where, you know, there's a little bump in the road, and the best thing to do is just, you know, sit down and talk.'

"And you know my response was that this is not a normal landlord-tenant relationship at all! I don't know very many landlord-tenant relationships where the landlord guarantees the tenant's profits, for example! Like the ticket guarantee, or these ludicrous clauses that allow the tenant to just arbitrarily cancel the lease anytime they, as a practical matter, feel like it.

"So, none of this problem I was having on the contracts committee seemed to make any sense to me. I just couldn't figure out what in the world was going on. And then in early February, Watson, before a task-force meeting, Watson comes to me and says, 'By the way, back in August, I heard the city attorney approach Len Simon out in the parking lot after a contracts-committee meeting and ask Simon whether or not there would be any problem for the city attorney hiring him or his firm, after the task force was over with, to negotiate with the Chargers.'

"And I sort of slapped my head and go, you know, my God! That explains, you know, everything! Because, I don't know still to this day, I don't know exactly what conversations occurred or exactly what was said, but I always sensed that Simon was trying to suggest to the mayor and to the council that he would be a great negotiator for them to hire.

"So, that was one of the experiences I had with the task force that sort of led me to believe that it was one of the reasons why the task force went so wrong.

"Because what happened to the task force was you had this sort of interesting rise and fall in the process. Where in the beginning, I tried to warn the task-force members that, look, the Chargers are playing very hardball here; this isn't just normal hardball.

"The Chargers have a tremendous incentive, financial incentive to move up to Los Angeles. They have three possible sites up there. They've got the Rose Bowl, they've got downtown Los Angeles, and they've got the coliseum. And I said we'd better, as a group, try to figure out what's going on in Los Angeles so we can give the council, you know, a full appraisal of what the opportunities are for the Chargers and what economic magnet exists that may be drawing them up to that market. The response from the task-force members, almost per person, was just an aggressive refusal to deal with Los Angeles. Some of them just said to me, 'Well, Los Angeles is totally irrelevant, and it doesn't matter.' And others said to me, 'Los Angeles is dead. There's no possibility of any NFL team playing for Los Angeles that we know of.'

"The fact is that that fundamental misunderstanding of reality, that tended to dominate the entire task-force process. And that led a lot of people like Len Simon, who was probably the principal spokesperson for this task force, to try to suggest to the city council that, look, there'd be absolutely no problem just sitting down and negotiating with the Chargers.

"Whereas I took the position that the only way you're going to be able to deal with the Chargers is if you first establish that they have no right to trigger and no right to leave San Diego.

"And the task force just disagreed with me. They said, 'We don't have to worry about whether they can trigger.' And not only that, but to get back to this rise and fall that started to happen, in November and December it started to become more and more clear that the Chargers were not going to provide the data, the key data that they had agreed to provide.

"And, for example, you have [task-force member] Ron [Saathoff], the head of the Firefighters' Union, who himself understands that he's got a conflict there. Not in a personal conflict, but I mean in the sense of his membership, you know, he wants to see to it that the city budget doesn't get raided in order that they have money for salaries and benefits, and they have money for new fire stations and new equipment.

"The flip side is, of course, a lot of them probably are Chargers fans. [Saathoff] discovered by December and early January that there was no way on God's earth that the Chargers were going to provide any meaningful data about whether they were competitive or what the profits were or what financial problems they had with Qualcomm, if any, you know. And that as a task-force member and head of the finance committee, he was going to be expected to just accept the representation by the NFL.

"I said, what they're [the Chargers] really interested in is creating a legal environment in which they can leave San Diego.

"And that takes you back to the original contract, and that's why they have to trigger, and that's why they're going to trigger, I told them. And these people said no, no, no. What they're going to do is they're going to agree to extend the trigger date and then, once they get that extension and we come back with the task-force report, they're going to agree to sit down and have voluntary negotiations and put off the trigger as long as it takes in order for the City to, in good faith, negotiate a new deal with them.

"And I said, that isn't going to happen. I said, you're absolutely wrong. They're going to trigger when it's convenient to them.

"The only question is, is there a deal to be done up in Los Angeles? And that's where it became critical that you had people [who knew what they were talking about]. For example, I had Tim Sullivan from the Union-Tribune come to me in the middle of February and say, 'Bruce, my sources tell me that everything in L.A. has come to a dead stop, and there is no deal to be made in L.A.' And I said, well, that isn't what my sources are telling me. My sources are telling me that the Rose Bowl deal is in the final stages, and it's almost ready to come to fruition.

"And he said, 'Well, that's not what I'm hearing.' And I said, 'Well, I hope you're right, and I hope I'm wrong.' But you see, those sorts of judgment calls of what's going on in L.A. are very critical in this whole process because if you assume that the Chargers have no place to go, then they don't need to trigger. The only reason to trigger under the contract is to start a process by which the Chargers are free to leave San Diego."

MP: "The Chargers' position was that they had to use the trigger in order to begin the negotiations."

BH: "Which, of course, isn't true. As the task-force members, and as everybody who thinks about it for a second knows, two parties to a contract are always free to sit down and talk to each other and negotiate to come up with a brand-new contract.

"In the middle of January, Watson came to me and he said, 'Isn't it interesting that people like [Ron Saathoff] are now saying that, "Uh, gee, it looks like Henderson was absolutely right about the Chargers."'

"[But] the task force said, 'Well, no, we don't want to deal with that. We want to negotiate with them even if they won't give us that data. Because we believe that and that's what they want.' In other words, they just ignored the reality and said, 'Well, we want to believe that the Chargers want to stay here in San Diego.' And if I'd say, 'Well, they don't,' they'd say, 'Well, they say they do.' I get these task-force members saying, 'Well, [Dean Spanos] says they want to stay in San Diego.' I'd say, 'Well, they have to say they want to stay in San Diego under the contract!' You know, it'd be a gross breach of the contract for [Dean Spanos] to say anything else.

"You have to watch what the NFL is doing up in Los Angeles. And that's where you have to pay attention to what people in Los Angeles are saying as to who is the likely team that's going to fill that slot up there, and they're all saying up in Los Angeles it's the Chargers. So, obviously the NFL is suggesting to people up there, 'Oh yeah, we've got a team that's gonna fill the Rose Bowl, all right,' as they put this deal together at the Rose Bowl. And on the QT they're saying, 'Well, it's the Chargers.'

"All during this process, there were two sources of information. There were some Reader articles, of course, going back years particularly, where all of this had gotten laid out. And then, secondly, you could follow it in the L.A. Times. You couldn't follow it in the San Diego Union-Tribune. There was just zero coverage. Not quite zero, but as a practical matter, zero coverage. It's as though -- and again, you saw it with the task force -- they seem to be paralleling or mirroring this attitude of the task force that we will not pay any attention to Los Angeles because it doesn't fit in with what we want to believe.

"And that's why, of course, the City was caught in such shock when the Chargers triggered. Because everything had been based on the fact that 'Henderson was wrong, and we're right. Henderson doesn't know what the Chargers intend to do. We know what they intend to do. Henderson is wrong about Los Angeles. Nothing is happening up there.' Of course, we now know that claim, that nothing is happening in Los Angeles, is ludicrous.

"I said to the task force, 'Look, aside from the fact that you're wrong about that, there's another factor that makes the recommendation that you sit down right now and negotiate with the Chargers for a new stadium just outrageous.'

"And that is that on January 26, 2003, Qualcomm Stadium proved to the entire world, in front of billions of people who were watching the Super Bowl, Qualcomm Stadium proved that it was one of the finest -- it is, right now, this very minute, one of the finest -- NFL football venues anywhere in the world, you know.

"Whether you were watching the game, whether you were playing the game, or whether you were there working the back room to make sure that everybody was happy and everything got done, Qualcomm Stadium worked as well as any stadium anywhere.

"I mean, the difference was here in San Diego with our beautiful weather, you might have to go out and have one of the corporate parties inside a big white tent as opposed to, you know, some fancy room that would otherwise sit vacant for, you know, 350 days out of the year. In other words, just ludicrous.

"Paul Tagliabue didn't say that there was anything wrong with Qualcomm Stadium. What he said was that the NFL doesn't intend to have another Super Bowl here in San Diego unless you give the Chargers a brand-new stadium.

"That's not to say there's anything wrong with Qualcomm. Why do I say that? I say that because the NFL had a very, very definite need to send that message throughout the United States. Why? Well, because the NFL was in an interesting position in Los Angeles where people up in Los Angeles had said, 'Look,' to the NFL. They said, 'NFL, you need us more than we need you. We people here in Los Angeles, we're not going to use public funds to build a new stadium. If you come here, you're gonna have to pay for it.' And for a long time the NFL thought they could hold out, or try to hold out, and see whether L.A. wouldn't capitulate.

"Of course, as we knew, those of us who'd been watching this, gradually the NFL was coming up against a deadline. That deadline was to have to renegotiate the television contracts. And the problem the NFL had was -- uh, they had a couple of problems.

"What they knew was, in negotiating with people as powerful as these TV companies, that the TV people were gonna say, 'Look, you don't have a team in Los Angeles; we're gonna dock you a billion dollars.' The NFL would be arguing, 'Well, look, it doesn't matter. You shouldn't dock us a dime!' The problem was the NFL didn't know whether it was going to cost them nothing or a billion dollars. And so, if you're a businessman under those conditions, and you think you can build a stadium in Los Angeles and make money off of it, well then, you might as well go ahead and build it.

"And so, what the NFL finally decided to do is just capitulate. Instead of the citizens and taxpayers of L.A. capitulating, this time the NFL capitulates. And, okay, they're suggesting they're going to build a brand-new Rose Bowl, fully renovated Rose Bowl, probably keep the historic façade, at basically 100 percent cost to the NFL.

"Now, what message does that send to the 31 other cities in the United States, or, let's say, 32 other cities, I should say, including San Diego? What message does that send? Well, the message it sends is obvious. You don't need to pay for new stadiums anymore; the NFL will pay for them. So, does the NFL want to send that message? No! Of course, it's desperate not to send that message. It's just as desperate to have a team in Los Angeles, and the only way they can do it is with a brand-new stadium. I mean, the Rose Bowl is not Qualcomm Stadium. The Rose Bowl doesn't work well, for a variety of reasons. The coliseum doesn't work well. It's not a Qualcomm Stadium. And, of course, downtown L.A. doesn't have a stadium, the other possible redevelopment site down there. So, the NFL's got this situation. It's gotta have a brand-new stadium, and it needs a team in L.A., and it's gonna have to pay for it. And if it sends that message to 32 cities around the United States with existing franchises, that's the end of their ability to extort money out of the citizenry.

"Indianapolis, you know, Minneapolis, you can go around the United States. There are lots of places where the NFL is going to be engaging in this argument. Should the NFL pay for the new stadium, or should you, the taxpayer, pay for a new stadium?

"So, they've got a problem, right? But how do they solve that problem? It's really easy. You use San Diego as the example, and you say, 'Well, L.A. is just an aberration, folks. You know, sure, we paid for things in L.A., but that was because San Diego wouldn't build a new stadium. And not only that, we're never going to do another Super Bowl there. And we're never going to put a team there again until they build a new stadium. So, Indianapolis, if you think we're going to build your stadium, don't look at L.A., look at San Diego. That's the example you should be looking at. And you know, you should start shivering and shaking in your boots. Because, if you don't put taxpayer money into a new stadium and build us what we want, you're going to become a new San Diego.'

"That's why San Diego doesn't stand a chance in these negotiations with the Chargers. Not a chance! Because the NFL needs a team in Los Angeles. For reasons best known to itself, it doesn't want to expand [create a new football team], but you see, if it expanded, the problem it has is... Say it expands. It leaves the Chargers in San Diego. The Chargers don't get a new stadium at public expense. And the NFL pays 100 percent of the cost of a new stadium in Los Angeles, okay? And it gets its expansion franchise fee from somebody. Well, what object lesson does the NFL have then, under those circumstances, with an expansion team, to say to Indianapolis and the other various cities where it wants to extort taxpayer money to build a new stadium? It doesn't have any example, you know?

"It's got the Chargers playing in Qualcomm Stadium, not a brand-new stadium. So, it doesn't fit the needs of the NFL to move the team or to expand into Los Angeles, or even move a team from someplace else to Los Angeles, unless it can do it under circumstances in which it can make it clear to everybody that the only reason the team moved was because the local community would not build a new stadium.

"As I've tried to explain to the task force, if you stop living in la-la land, you know, get your head out of the sand, look at the realities, you don't have an option of negotiating with the Chargers.

"The clock is running. They have a right to go talk to other cities. If they don't, if the two of you can't agree, if either side can't agree within 90 days to a so-called offset of the trigger, then there's a second stage where they can go out and get a letter of intent, and if the City doesn't agree to provide the Chargers with whatever that letter of intent includes -- like, for example, they come back from Pasadena with a letter of intent that provides a brand-new stadium in Pasadena. If the City doesn't agree to match the terms within 90 days, then the Chargers are free to leave San Diego. And, of course, the City can't possibly get voter approval within 90 days. So all this talk about putting a new stadium on the ballot and having the voters making the decision is b.s. That isn't what's going to happen.

"What's going to happen is the City is going to say, 'We can't respond within that 90-day period to this letter of intent,' and the Chargers are going to end up being free to leave.

"So, there are two things that you have to take into consideration once they trigger. And one is that, in order to stop the Chargers from freeing themselves under the terms of the contract to move to Los Angeles, you've got to enforce the terms of it, strictly. As Alex [Spanos], I mean as [Dean] said, a contract is a contract.

"And the City has got to respond in kind. Say, 'Yes, a contract is a contract.' So, as I tried to tell the task force and, of course, just got this, just this aggressive response back from them -- 'We will not do what you suggest, Bruce.' I tried to tell them that's why we have to focus really carefully on the trigger, and we've got to lay out in very specific terms every reasonable and possible defense that the City might have to stop the Chargers from utilizing this trigger. And that's when I wrote some letters about that and things, and that's when the contracts committee said 'No, we won't do that, we aren't going to look closely at the trigger.'

"But the fact is, there are some very good defenses under the trigger. For example, the components to the trigger may have changed dramatically since 1995. The question is, do you use the '95 components; do you use the 2002 components in the mathematical formula? The question is, have the Chargers manipulated their cash payments last year? We know that they had to work the terms of the salary with Doug Flutie in February because they were having problems with the cap of the -- of the substantial cash payments that they made in 2002. Did they go over the NFL cap in 2002? And if so, can they do that and still trigger? Can they use those same payments that they shouldn't have been making under the terms of the NFL cap but went ahead and made as payments that allow them to trigger?

"The other thing, one of the primary things we see, last week suddenly the City is saying, 'Well, we may come to an agreement with the Chargers about confidentiality.' And there'd be certain data that they provide us that the public wouldn't be permitted to review. And of course, my immediate response to that was outrage. What they're talking about there is another critical defense the City may have. The Chargers may have outsmarted themselves with the trigger formula, because it requires them to disclose to the City, in order to prove that they can trigger, a variety of confidential information that, as far as I know, has never been disclosed publicly by the NFL or any of its teams -- ever, in the past.

"They have never taken a formal position on whether they have to disclose or they don't have to disclose. What they'd like to do is come back and say, 'Well, you have to provide...you have to sign confidentiality agreements and then we'll let two or three representatives of the City review this stuff in a back room.' They can never tell anyone what they saw. And then everyone will just have to trust them when they come out and say, 'Oh, the Chargers can do X, Y, or Z.' But trust them? We're being asked to trust the same people who brought us this disastrous contract and that is the city attorney's office, for example, the city manager's office. The public now knows that you can't trust these people.

By early February, things were really looking good for me, because it looked like the task force had gotten to the point where they said, 'We don't believe the Chargers' claim that Qualcomm Stadium is creating a problem for them.'

"But then suddenly in mid-February Geoff [Patnoe], the representative of the San Diego Taxpayers Association, brings in this motion that looked like to me -- I mean, he was a water boy for the Chargers. And the motion was that we recommended to the council that they immediately start negotiating with the Chargers for a new stadium.

"And I said, 'Well, look, that recommendation suggests that the Chargers somehow need a new stadium. That somehow Qualcomm isn't adequate.' And they all just looked at me like, 'Well, we're not even going to discuss that.' And I said, 'Well, what about the Super Bowl? What about the fact that the Chargers haven't brought us any of the numbers that you were so angry about a week ago?' 'Well, that's all irrelevant now. The city oughta sit down and negotiate immediately for a new stadium.' And I said, 'Well, that's outrageous! And it's outrageous for this reason: there is no conceivable way that the Chargers need a new stadium. In fact, a new stadium does not make any sense economically in San Diego, at least in the foreseeable future.'

"The only problem that the Chargers have is twofold. One is, that they, the Spanoses, just haven't been very good at assembling a team that wins on the field. Occasionally they win, but not very often. They just aren't very good at that, even though they spend huge amounts of money. I mean, if you look at the salary numbers, you know, the Chargers are clearly competitive, salary-wise. It's just that they make all sorts of bad decisions. I mean, Ryan [Leaf] being, you know, the most infamous. Now, letting Junior Seau go, you know? Maybe he's past his prime, I don't know, but he sure looked to me like he's one of our best players last year.

"What has occurred is this business of, have they put a winning team on the field? Had they, Qualcomm Stadium would've been full last year, and they would've made money hand over fist.

"There's no indication from any numbers that anyone has seen that Alex [Spanos] hasn't every year, for the last decade at least, at the end of the season walked into the bank with a check that represented a net profit to his family of four, five, maybe ten million dollars -- I don't know how much, but it's been a really big number, at least from the perspective of an ordinary citizen.

"It's very clear that over the last five or six years, the Chargers have been guilty of the most appalling marketing program, probably in the whole NFL. That is, they just haven't bothered to market the team. The problem is it's not just the ticket guarantee that creates a reverse incentive. It's that if you want to leave San Diego, if your ultimate goal is to leave San Diego, and you want to go up to Los Angeles, what the ticket guarantee does is covers you financially and then assists you in creating just a terrible relationship with the San Diego community. Because what you want to arrive at is the point that the Roger Hedgecocks of San Diego -- which he's been doing recently -- the Roger Hedgecocks of San Diego are saying to everybody, 'Let's help 'em pack.'

"You want to be able, as the Chargers, to go to the NFL and say, 'We're free to leave.' Not only can you use San Diego as a whipping boy to show other cities what happens if you don't build brand-new stadiums -- that is, you'll lose your team and never get one back -- but secondly, there isn't going to be any uproar like there was in Cleveland that threatens, maybe, congressional action.

"The one thing that could break up the NFL cartel is that the United States Congress starts to pass the legislation that tears them apart, because they say, 'Look, we're angry at you because you've treated your city so poorly. Look at what's going on in San Diego. Those people have done this and this and this for the Chargers, and now you're leaving, and these people are having a fit, and we want to do something about it politically to stop the NFL from doing that.' The NFL doesn't want that type of reaction. That's the sort of reaction that they were starting to get out of the Cleveland situation. And so, they rushed into Cleveland and said, 'Well, we'll give you an expansion team.' And then everything cooled off in Congress. Well, here it's even better. They learn. You see, we don't learn as a city. We never learn.

"But the NFL always learns. And what they learned was, if you're going to pull a team out of the city -- because you need to do that in order to send a message and you want to fill the L.A. market -- if you're going to pull the team out, you need to have the community at a point where they're packing the team's bags.

"What have the Spanoses done to market? In light of declining ticket sales, did the Chargers reduce ticket prices so that they could fill up the stadium with fans? No, they increased ticket prices. That's not marketing; that's reverse marketing. In other words, what you're trying to do -- and then they fire Junior Seau! Or let him go. Under mysterious circumstances. Well, why? Because they want the team...they want the community packing the team's bags when they go up to L.A. so that San Diego doesn't create a problem in the United States Congress as a result of losing a team. You see, losing a team makes a lot of cities nervous. And so suddenly you have pressure from all over the United States to stop the NFL from being able to do this. Suddenly there are at least 31 cities who are nervous that it also might happen to them when they see things happening in San Diego.

"I tried to explain that to the task force, and they just laugh because they say, 'Look, that can't be true. Because, of course, the Chargers have no intention of leaving San Diego, first. And second, we're going to prove that you're wrong, Bruce, because we're recommending, as we did on February 28, that the City sit down and negotiate with the Chargers for a new stadium. And that will mean that the Chargers won't trigger, and they will postpone that ability indefinitely because, of course, they don't need to trigger then, because they are never going to leave San Diego, and the only reason they would trigger is if you were right, Bruce.'

"Well, of course, come March 3, what happens? They trigger! And that's why you had this just unbelievably angry outpouring of emotion from city and task-force members. Because, of course, they were just embarrassed because they were so wrong. You've got [Toni] Atkins and you've got, well, you could go up the list. You've got Michael [Zucchet] in [District] Two, and Atkins in three, and Donna [Frye] in six, and you've got, uh, [Maienschein] who are starting to pay attention to reality.

"I don't know what's going on in Len Simon's mind, but I know there are discussions between Len Simon and the city attorney's office, and Len Simon might think that he could get a million-dollar contract, you know. So suddenly you have the city attorney's office having potentially interfered with the independence of the task force.

"That was taken up at a task-force meeting. And then suddenly the task force, they vote to sort of punt and send this innocuous question to the ethics commission, which, of course, doesn't raise the real question [of the Len Simon situation] at all but simply says, well, if, in the abstract, if there are city task forces and subsequently, after the task force is all over with, then the City might be interested in hiring a member of the task force, would that create ethical problems? Well, that's an interesting question, but it has nothing to do with the question of, while the task force is underway, if the city attorney's office comes to a task-force member and offers them an opportunity that might lead a reasonable person to believe they could make a million bucks off of it, has the city attorney's office in some way tainted the task-force process?

"We need to know the facts. People like [Deputy City Attorney] Les Girard and the city attorney's office need to do what [county supervisor Pam Slater] is doing on the Board of Supervisors. Just telling the truth! What happened?

"So anyway, you have a situation in which the City, once again, totally and completely misjudged the realities of what was occurring. And so you have 15 members of a task force, 14 of which went along with it. And the task force was never given any opportunity to provide any input into how its budget was to be spent. Now why was that important? Well, it's important because one of the key budget items were the experts who were to be hired to advise the task force. So who gets hired? Not somebody that the task force chose, because it was somebody the task force had independently decided was an expert that could provide independent advice. No, it's an expert [Dan Barrett, president of Barrett Sports Group, a sports business consultant] that had already been working with the same team that had brought us this catastrophe. A very nice person, a very intelligent person, certainly a person with a great deal of expertise, but a person who also listed on his résumé, his firm's résumé, as people to call in case you wanted to check and see whether people should hire him, had listed quite prominently the San Diego Chargers and the Rose Bowl!

"And I'm going, well, excuse me! I don't know if this guy has a conflict of interest or not, I just know that with those two references you want to make some very, very careful inquiry to find out if there aren't other people out there with similar expertise who don't have those relationships that might suggest a conflict of interest. And the answer from the task-force members was, 'We don't care about that. And we do not have any interest in making any independent decisions about who we hire with the task-force budget to provide expert information.'

"Now here's [Barrett]. He's sitting there and, at our contracts-committee meeting, I'm talking about the trigger and trying to get taskforce members to focus on the trigger, and do I get any help from [Barrett]? No! None! In fact, [Barrett] suggested in many statements he made to the task force, 'Well, it probably isn't even worth looking at the trigger because I'm certain that the Chargers can [pull the trigger]. In other words, they're gonna be able to trigger, so let's not even look at that. Let's not even look at the question of whether there are any defenses.

"I mean, there's no question about the man's expertise. The question is, can he provide independent advice when he himself is saying that, in order to get jobs in the future, it's important for people to call the Chargers and see what they think of him? Or call the City of Pasadena and the Rose Bowl and find out what they think of him? I don't want to hire somebody like that. I want to hire somebody who says, 'If you ever find out whether I'm good, better not call the Chargers because they don't like me.'"

Share / Tools

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • AddThis
  • Email

More from SDReader


Log in to comment

Skip Ad