The Chargers and Raiders brought Disney C.E.O. Bob Iger on to their joint stadium project in Carson to try and strengthen their proposal, but sources tell NBC 7 SportsWrap Iger's recruitment could be the very thing that destroys their chances.
In an interview with Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News, Iger may have shared a little too much information. He was telling the story of how he got involved with the Carson project when he revealed who specifically asked him to come on board.
"I was approached - I guess I can do this Mark, talk about the genesis in a little more detail? - I was approached by (Panthers owner) Jerry Richardson," said Iger, "and he asked whether I'd be interested in helping very specifically the partnership of the Raiders and the Chargers move to L.A., develop a stadium, reposition themselves here. I engaged in conversations with Jerry and then with both entities. That's how it came about."
The individual Iger refers to as “Mark” is Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani, who was in the room for the interview. Fabiani did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Jerry Richardson is a leader of the Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities, a group of six NFL owners that was formed in February by Commissioner Roger Goodell. According to the memo sent at that time, the committee is supposed to “… evaluate the various stadium options available in Los Angeles, oversee the application of the relocation guidelines in the event that one or more clubs seek to move to Los Angeles, ensure proper coordination with other standing committees … and confirm that all steps taken in Los Angeles are consistent with the Constitution and Bylaws and NFL policies.”
The NFL’s official Policy and Procedures for Proposed Franchise Relocations states, in part, that the commissioner, “… may also convene a special committee to perform fact-finding or other functions with respect to any such proposed transfer.”
That verbiage suggests the six committee members are supposed to be watchdogs to help make sure the process is followed to the letter, not necessarily be part of the process.
Iger said his meeting with Richardson was also somewhat of a clandestine operation.
"When Jerry approached me, he asked for some degree of confidentiality,” said Iger. “I didn't discuss it until much later with the league."
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, two different attorneys familiar with the situation who have dealt with the NFL in the past told NBC 7 SportsWrap that Richardson’s actions could help lay the groundwork for a collusion lawsuit by either the City/County of San Diego or, more likely, Stan Kroenke and the Rams.
There are several reasons for this, according to the attorneys:
- Richardson sought cooperation from an influential individual (Iger) to a specific project in the best interest of two owners (Dean Spanos and Mark Davis) and did so in a confidential manner.
- This individual’s involvement is a detriment to another owner (Kroenke).
- Richardson’s status as the head of the Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities, which has influence on the decision process.
- There are financial ramifications for Richardson’s actions (in the billions of dollars).
Taken all together, the attorneys said, that would satisfy the conditions necessary to bring a collusion lawsuit.
It’s unknown at this time if Kroenke will take this route, but reports from the latest round of NFL owners meetings suggest his Inglewood project is trailing the Carson project almost two-to-one and he may not be able to earn enough votes to, if not win the race to Los Angeles, at least block Spanos and Davis for a while longer (it takes 24 of the 32 owners to approve a franchise relocation).
The threat of a lawsuit could very well turn the tide in Kroenke’s favor if he chooses to utilize it. Even if something that drastic does not transpire, it could force Commissioner Roger Goodell to ask Richardson to leave the L.A. Committee or even throw out any suggestions it has already made.
These seemingly simple and honest statements from Iger could represent the first impactful misstep we’ve seen in the Chargers’ strategy that has been executed by Fabiani.