Well, at least one disgruntled ex-San Diego Chargers fan isn’t going to take his team’s re-location to Los Angeles lying down.
As the Chargers get ready for their longest homestand of the season at the StubHub Center in L.A., ex-fan Joseph McRae designed five anti-NFL messages to be displayed on a digital billboard outside the Los Angeles stadium over the next three weeks.
McCrae, who also started a GoFundMe campaign and says he also speaks for football fans in St. Louis and Oakland, wrote, “Have you been an NFL fan your whole life only to have your team suddenly taken away from your city? You may have been the most loyal and dedicated supporter but it didn’t matter in the end. Have you ever wanted to tell the NFL how you actually feel? This is your chance.”
The target of much of McCrae’s derision is Chargers’ owner Dean Spanos and the billboard company says it will honor his ads for the whole three-week duration, despite any efforts of the NFL to stifle them.
McCrae and Chargers fans aren’t the only ones in the history of “Big 4” sports to be spat upon. Here are 15 unfortunate fan bases who had their teams yanked out from under them.
15. St. Louis Hawks – NBA
There is no city and fans more disrespected by pro sports franchises than the Gateway City. St. Louis has been home to several big league teams, only to see them pull up stakes for “greener” pastures. The current Atlanta Hawks called St. Louis home between 1955 and 1968 and the franchise’s only NBA championship was won there in 1958, over the Boston Celtics. In fact, the St. Louis Hawks also played in four championships, the only ones in team history. That St. Louis team made the playoffs every year but one (1961-62) and had winning records in eight of 13 seasons. The 1957-58 championship team featured future Hall of Famers Cliff Hagan and Bob Pettit and the last edition in 1967-68 had Hall of Famers Zelmo Beaty and (future coach) Lenny Wilkens. As with most teams on this list, owner Ben Kerner didn’t like the old stadium, Kiel, and was loath to move into the future home of the St. Louis Blues, the St. Louis Arena. He sold the team to Atlanta real estate magnate Tom Cousins and Georgia governor Carl Sanders in 1968, ending the Hawks tenure in St. Louis.
14. Baltimore Colts – NFL
The city of Baltimore may be home to the Ravens (formerly Cleveland Browns) now, but for 30 fairly glorious years, the Colts operated there. In the team’s fourth season, 1956, a rookie QB named Johnny Unitas came over from the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose coach thought he wasn’t “smart enough” to be a NFL pivot. The rest is history, as Unitas played 17 seasons there, winning two NFL championships, a Super Bowl (V) and three MVP awards as the face of the franchise. After he was traded in 1972, the team scuffled for a couple of seasons, but revived under QB Bert Jones, who was MVP in 1976 and took the team to three straight playoffs from 1975 to 1977. A telling moment was the sale of the team to Bob Irsay in 1972 which preceded a decline in attendance. After some legal wrangling for the foundering franchise in 1984, Irsay infamously moved the franchise in the middle of the night on March 29 to the city of Indianapolis.
13. Minnesota North Stars – NHL
In 1966, the NHL awarded a franchise — one of six expansion clubs — to a Minnesota ownership group, bringing big league hockey to the “state of hockey.” The North Stars began play in 1967-68 and initially were competitive in the new 12-team league. The made the semi-finals in 1968 and appeared in the post-season in five of their first six seasons. Some down years followed and accordingly, attendance waned and cash flow receded, leading to an unprecedented merger with the soon-to-be defunct Cleveland Barons (owned by the Gund brothers) in 1978. The Gunds, who later were awarded a team in San Jose in 1990 (the Sharks) sold the team to some Bay Area moguls led by Norm Green and despite being raided for players by the Sharks during the 1990 dispersal draft, made a Cinderella run to the 1991 Stanley Cup final, losing to Pittsburgh. In 1992, Green wanted to move the team to L.A. but Disney wanted the Mighty Ducks in Anaheim and Green was told he would get relocation approval to a city of his choosing, settling on Dallas. The Stars started playing there in 1993-94.
12. Kansas City Athletics – MLB
We could easily have put the Philadelphia Athletics here (they played there for 53 years) but for sheer greed and disregard shown to fans of Kansas City by owner Arnold Johnson, K.C. gets the nod. The Chicago real estate magnate bought the team in 1954 and moved them to Missouri, initially making him a hero for making Kansas City a major league town. But, he had only dollars and cents in mind and in a Machiavellian scheme involving the New York Yankees bought the local stadium, sold it to the city, which leased it back to him, where he had a three-year escape clause if the team failed to draw one million or more customers per season. A subsequent lease in 1960 held the same clause if fewer than 850,000 attended A’s games. As it was, the Athletics never had a winning season in 13 years but drew very well. But Johnson, who had shady ties with the Yankees, made sure future stars like Roger Maris, Clete Boyer and Ralph Terry were traded to the Bronx Bombers for aging veterans and cash. He died in 1960, with insurance mogul Charlie O. Finley taking over controlling interest. Later, despite his own protestations that the team would remain in Kansas City, he moved them to Oakland in 1968.
11. Cleveland Browns – NFL
At one time, the original Cleveland Browns were a NFL powerhouse, winning the first ever championship in the new NFL in 1950 and three more, the last in 1964. Those were the days of founder Paul Brown and legendary running back Jim Brown. The Browns, like the Indians, were part of the very fabric of the city and enjoyed some great successes, and a few lows, before 1995. In 1961, ad man Art Modell bought the team and right away a power struggle between him and Paul Brown started. By 1963 Modell fired Brown, much to the delight of Jim Brown, who hated Paul’s style. The Browns won their last championship in 1964, presaging many years of teasing the fans with good seasons, only to lose in the playoffs, again, and again and again. In 1995, after Cleveland citizens and the city acquiesced to a demand from Modell to sink $300 million into refurbishing old Municipal Stadium, Modell announced he was moving the team anyway, to Baltimore. What followed was a series of protests, lawsuits and ultimately the trashing of the stadium in their final game. Adding insult to injury following a 5-11 season, Modell fired then coach Bill Belichick by telephone. What a skank.
10. Kansas City Kings – NBA
The state of Missouri, never mind the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City, have been the losers in many sports franchise relocations. The Kansas City Kings were the second most successful iteration of a team that began as the
Rochester Royals (who won the franchise’s only NBA title). From 1972-73 to 1984-85, the K.C. Kings went to the playoffs five times and made the team’s second last appearance in the Western Conference finals in 1980-81. Otherwise, the franchise, owned by current Boston Bruins owner and tightwad Jeremy Jacobs, was beset by managerial malfeasance, a stadium (Kemper) where the roof fell in, a GM (Joe Axelson) who was hired and fired by several times while trading away stars like Nate Archibald and Oscar Robertson and another GM who was fired for reusing marked postage stamps. Needless to say, fans stayed away in droves due to all the shenanigans and the team moved to Sacramento in 1985.
9. Winnipeg Jets – NHL
The Jets were a powerhouse in the old WHA, featuring superstar Bobby Hull and winning three league titles before being accepted into the NHL along with Edmonton, Quebec and Hartford. They didn’t fare too well their first two seasons in the NHL, including a franchise worst nine-win season in 1980-81. But those finishes netted them high draft picks, one where they made Dale Hawerchuk no. 1 overall (1981). The Jets under Hawerchuk and a few other stars would be pretty good through the 1980s and into the 90s, only to lose either to the powerful Oilers or Calgary Flames in the playoffs. Fans packed the old Winnipeg Arena, but with NHL expansion into the U.S. and increased operating costs (exacerbated by a low Canadian dollar), the small market Jets found it harder and harder to compete for free agents. After attempts to find a local buyer proved fruitless, commish Gary Bettman poured gas on the fire by saying “there doesn’t seem to be anybody, in a serious fashion, who wants to own the franchise.” One local consortium tried, but failed, ultimately leading to owner Barry Shenkarow selling the team, which moved to Phoenix. And we know how that has worked out.
8. Washington Senators – MLB
Follow us on a baseball journey straight out of the twilight zone. Because the city of Washington, D.C. lost it’s baseball team not once, but twice and would later inherit someone else’s ball team (more on that later). The original Washington Senators were one of the originals, beginning play in 1901, but not realizing success until “Big Train” Walter Johnson led them to a World Series title in 1924. The team would lose two more World Series before sinking into mediocrity between 1934 and 1960. In 1960, the team was moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul to become the twins, the major league baseball, not wishing to alienate D.C. and the fans, granted them an expansion team (huh?). Because their players, including Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew moved, the team had to stock from an expansion draft and were brutal for 11 seasons, never winning more than 86 games in a season and four times losing over 100 contests. A succession of owners and questionable (i.e. cost saving) player personnel moves doomed the second iteration, owner/GM Bob Short got 10-2 approval to move the team to Texas to become the Rangers.
7. St. Louis Cardinals And Rams – NFL
If we were St. Louis football fans, we would be steamed too. Not only did St. Louis lose the Cardinals franchise (to Arizona) but the Rams also pulled up stakes last year and moved back to Los Angeles. In the 1960s the Cards, owned by Bill Bidwill (who still owns them), were fairly successful, posting five winning seasons. But, as a harbinger of things to come, Bidwill and his brother Charles didn’t like St. Louis or its stadium and threatened to move the team. They didn’t after a new stadium was built, but that didn’t stop them when the team declined in the 1980s, along with attendance. After the Bidwill’s announced a move in 1987 (to either Phoenix, Baltimore or Jacksonville) fans were so livid Bill Bidwill stayed away from home games. They moved to Phoenix in 1988. As we all know, the Rams moved to St. Louis under contentious circumstances in 1995 and the team would win its first Super Bowl in 1999 during a period of success that spanned 1999 to 2004. After that, though, the Rams were brutal and in 2014, after not initially disclosing it, hated owner Stan Kroenke was forced to tell everyone he bought land in Los Angeles on which he was going to build a new stadium. Thus, the end was near and formalized by the NFL owners’ cabal in 2016.
6. San Diego Clippers And Rockets – NBA
Now Chargers fans know what it was like for two different generations of basketball fans in San Diego. In 1967, the San Diego Rockets were founded by Robert Breitbard and paid the princely sum of $1.75 million to joing the NBA as an expansion team. That first team would include rookie Pat Riley and went on to lose a then record 67 games. The Rockets would make the playoffs the second season, but lost in the first round and never made it back again. Despite the additions of Elvin Hayes, Calvin Murphy and Rudy Tomjanovich, the Rockets drew poorly and Breitbard sold the team to a concern in Houston in 1971, where they still are. Seven years later, the Buffalo Braves were seeking a new home and San Diego provided a soft landing spot. The newly named Clippers were decent their first three seasons, but suffered a horrible 17-65 mark in 1981-82. Attendance hit new lows (about 4,500 per game) by the last two seasons, leading owner Irv Levin to sell the team to Los Angeles attorney and later outed bigot Donald Sterling. He moved the team north to La-la land in 1984.
5. Oakland Raiders – NFL
Pity the hardcore fans in Oakland. The Raiders are due to move to Las Vegas in 2020, ending what will then be a 47-season stay in the Bay Area, with a 13-season interlude in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994. Thus, it will be the second time the city has lost the franchise, this time for good, even though the Oakland Alameda Coliseum is sold out for the 2017 campaign. With the city unable to meet Mark Davis’ stadium demands to replace the aging Coliseum, he met with Las Vegas stakeholders in early 2016 to float the possibility of a multi-billion dollar domed venue. After pledging to move the club, the Nevada state senate pledged to commit $750 million for a new stadium. With that in hand, Davis and the Raiders filed paper work for relocation earlier this year and even though it was reported previously that the majority of owners disapproved due to the large TV market in California, the owners approved the move by a vote of 31-1.
4. Montreal Expos – MLB
When it comes right down to it, the Expos lost their franchise because of the 1994 players strike as well as the fact that MLB owners are a greedy bunch who vehemently opposed revenue sharing for a league in dire need of it at that time. After making the playoffs during the strike shortened 1981 season, a formerly mediocre team became a formidable one through the 1980s and by the early 1990s they were a legitimate contender, boasting players like Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom, Pedro Martinez, John Wetteland and Moises Alou. They finished second in the NL East in 1992 and 1993, and then roared into the 1994 season. Early that season, they were 28-22 but went on a 46-18 streak, only to have playoff and World Series aspirations squashed by the strike. When revenue-sharing got pulled from the collective bargaining agreement, a cash-strapped and penny-pinching Expos organization began jettisoning players. The team reverted to also-ran status and fans, accordingly, started staying away from the “Big O.” In 2004, then owner Jeffery Loria sold the team to the league (so he could by the Marlins and run them into the ground) and relocation to Washington happened in 2005.
3. Quebec Nordiques – NHL
There has been a push in recent years to bring a NHL team back to La Belle Province, specifically in Quebec City. They have a new rink and a loyal fan base just itching to watch their team tangle with the likes of the Montreal Canadiens, which was a great rivalry for 16 seasons. But, with Gary Bettman’s “vision” for the league, only non-hockey markets like Las Vegas are good enough for expansion, sheesh. The Nords joined the NHL from the old WHA in 1979 and after missing the playoffs in their inaugural season, went to the post-season seven years in a row. They beat the hated Canadiens twice in the playoffs and lost three times in some thrilling series, three of which went the distance. They had a bit of a dry spell in the late 80s and early 90s but picked it up in 1992-93, flush with new players like Peter Forsberg (part of the infamous Eric Lindros trade) and Joe Sakic, getting back to the playoffs. However, the weak Canadian dollar and unilingual market weren’t helping matters, despite great attendance. As per usual, when owner Marcel Aubut went looking to the province for a bail out, it disapproved and the team would move to Colorado (and be very successful thereafter). It remains a great hockey market, too bad the NHL loves the desert.
2. Seattle SuperSonics – NBA
What is it about billionaire owners always going hat in hand to state/province and municipal officials looking for money to finance their glitzy new stadiums? And if a city deserves to have a NBA franchise, it’s Seattle. In 2006, then majority owner Howard Schultz (the Starbucks CEO), sold the Sonics to an Oklahoma City group — because the state, rightly, refused to pitch in taxpayer dollars for a new venue — on the belief that they wouldn’t move the team. Shah! Right! With that, a team that had just seen a franchise savior in Kevin Durant come aboard in the 2008 draft, would move halfway across America, only to lose Durant to the West Coast later anyway. The SuperSonics came to being in 1967 and after some middling finishes, became a force in the late 70s, winning the franchises only championship in 1979. Throughout much of the team’s history, they were a playoff squad, but in the last six seasons of their existence in Seattle they weren’t, ultimately leading to the shady move to Oklahoma City.
1. San Diego Chargers – NFL
The saga of the NFL and it’s greedy owners wanting to move just about every franchise to Los Angeles is fodder for every Roger Goodell hater out there. The San Diego Chargers, who actually started out in Los Angeles before moving to San Diego on 1961, are but one of three franchises who the league mulled bringing into La-la land. The Chargers and Rams both got their wish, while Oakland had to settle on Vegas. As per usual, owner Dean Spanos held the team and its fans hostage, saying that if the city didn’t build a new stadium (how typical of money bags owners is that!?) he would move them to Los Angles. As a point of matter, the A.G. Spanos Co. of which Dean is scion, is a multi-billion dollar real estate concern. The move to L.A. has already been a dubious oneDEa, as the team has been forced to play in tiny soccer stadium for three years (instead of two) and the new stadium is way behind original estimates to being completed.