NFL Town Hall Meeting recap: Chargers fans are angry

If there was one resounding theme from the NFL’s town hall meeting in San Diego on Wednesday night, it was that the villagers are angry.

Very. Angry.

While Rams fans maintained decorum at their town hall meeting the night before in St. Louis, the crowd in San Diego was louder, surlier and more agitated. In St. Louis, speakers asked tough, pertinent questions to the panel of NFL executives, but in San Diego, it felt more like a therapy session, a way to unload frustration and venom surrounding the stadium situation and how it has been handled by the Chargers.

Held at Spreckels Theatre downtown, the forum was open to at least 1,000 Chargers fans. Only 450 showed up, with the top two tiers of the theatre remaining completely empty. (By comparison, 850 people showed up to the meeting in St. Louis, NFL execs said.) The league did not turn away any fans who showed up at the door Wednesday.

The evening opened with a speech from Chargers’ special counsel Mark Fabiani, who was met with boos and shouts of “Get off the stage!” while a few others implored the crowd to show respect. When he was finally able to speak, Fabiani expressed that “the failure to come up with a stadium solution has nothing to do with the great fans of the Chargers” and went on to explain, again, why the City of San Diego and the team are so far apart on this issue, which you can read here.

Speaking of the Mayor: Before the meeting started, Mayor Kevin Faulconer surprised fans who were waiting outside, showing up to shake hands and offer encouragement.

Back to the meeting.

One by one, fans took their turn at the mic, many going past the allotted three minutes allowed to speak (which caused a logjam at the end of the night, as people who were waiting to comment were not able to take their turn). Most of the comments were negative toward the way the stadium situation has been handled by the team, as well as dismissive toward Fabiani. Relationship analogies were used quite a bit, with speakers calling the Chargers a “cheating girlfriend” and one going so far as saying Los Angeles would be the “new girlfriend, but with STDs.” Other fans were emotional, teary-eyed and passionate about keeping the Chargers in San Diego, and several speakers made the case for using taxpayer money to do something besides build a stadium (like fix up roads and schools).

The NFL’s point person for relocation, Eric Grubman, spoke after the meeting concluded. Here are a few of the main takeaways:

How would you characterize this night?

“I don’t think we satisfied anybody in terms of their worry or the possibility [a team could move] but I think we gave them a voice, and that’s what we were trying to do.”

This crowd seemed more riled up than St. Louis. Do you agree?

“I don’t view the audience as being disrespectful or anything like that. I think they were very passionate. I think they chose to, as a group, express their points of view and pour out their emotion, rather than ask questions. I think that’s the principal difference between the two crowds.”

What did you make of the reaction to Mark Fabiani?

“I don’t think you need me to interpret that. I think that when a person is the face of something that’s very unpopular, it draws the criticism and ire and boos. I understand their reaction but I don’t think you should try to make more of it than it really is.”

Did this change your opinion of San Diego in any way?

“I think the fans of the Chargers are terrific fans and I think that San Diego is a market that has a lot going for it. It doesn’t have a stadium that is a ‘next 30-year economic engine,’ but it does have some other things going for it. And I like coming to San Diego.”

What will you discuss at the owners meetings in December?

“We have term sheets from St. Louis and San Diego. We have to fully understand those term sheets, which we’ll do shortly and spend a little more time on those. And then we’re going to talk about those term sheets from the cities, so there may be information that comes out of that to present.”

(Term sheets are like proposals; for example, what the Mayor has proposed for Mission Valley. Oakland has NOT submitted a term sheet. San Diego and St. Louis have.)

What will happen with these comments? How will they be presented to owners?

“There’s three things that we’re doing and there may be more. The first is that we will report themes that comes from these, and also from the written comments. The second is that this is streamed live, so personnel and owners can look at it. Thirdly, it’s archived so they can do that.

“We’re considering if there’s a way for us to take what will be nine hours of testimonials and questions, and see if we can create something that’s easy for owners to view. I know many of our L.A. committee members are looking at parts of it and they may want us to do that.”

Has anything about this process surprised you?

“No. It shouldn’t be a secret that I’m a fan too. I have family members who are fans and I watch them paint their face and I see the tears down their eyes when they lose, and if they view the NFL as having done their team wrong in anything, I hear about it. So, it doesn’t surprise me when I see the passion and the emotions of the fans, and I respect it. I’m a fan too.”

The panel will hold its final town hall meeting on Thursday in Oakland.



2 thoughts on “NFL Town Hall Meeting recap: Chargers fans are angry

  1. Pingback: 10/29 Morning Mighty: San Diego Chargers fans vent at NFL execs | Mighty1090AM

  2. Robert Campbell

    San Diego was extremely rude and immature at this meeting, especially when compared to both St. Louis and even Oakland. It was embarrassing to see nearly 100% of the speakers in S.D. do the exact same thing: loudly ridicule Los Angeles and mention the great weather in S.D. (literally not one other reason about what makes San Diego a good NFL city was mentioned by any fan, only the weather…which is the same as L.A.’s anyway).

    Both St. Louis and Oakland fans all had comments and questions that were pertinent to their stadium situation. San Diegans just wanted a bItch session, and in doing so made themselves look really bad in the eyes of the NFL.

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