The lawyer who is leading the San Diego Chargers’ efforts to move to Los Angeles was vigorously booed as he addressed the crowd at the beginning of a public hearing the NFL mandated as part of the relocation process.
"Why don’t you tell the truth?" one fan yelled at Mark Fabiani, who has criticized Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s efforts to build a new stadium in Mission Valley to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium.
Eric Grubman, the NFL’s point man on Los Angeles, had to step in and ask that the crowd to calm down.
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"I don’t think you need me to interpret that," Grubman said afterward, when asked about the crowd’s sentiment toward Fabiani. "When a person is the face of something 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."
Many Chargers fans feel betrayed because the team and its biggest rival, the Oakland Raiders, have proposed a joint $1.7 billion stadium in Carson, an industrial suburb of L.A. if they don’t get stadium deals in their home market. Their proposal was announced after St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke announced plans for a stadium in Inglewood.
"It’s good to see all of you here tonight," Fabiani, a one-time deputy mayor of Los Angeles, told the crowd Wednesday night at a downtown theater.
"That’s a lie," one fan yelled.
Fabiani, who works for Chargers chairman Dean Spanos, blamed politicians, not the fans, for the team’s stance. The Chargers walked away from negotiations with the city and county in mid-June. Fabiani said the team won’t accept Faulconer’s proposal because of a "flawed fatal EIR process."
Fabiani has criticized the city’s environmental impact report. However, Gov. Jerry Brown recently approved an accelerated judicial review process for any lawsuits filed.
Another reason the team opposes Faulconer’s proposal is because it caps public contributions at 32 percent and makes the team responsible for overruns. Fabiani has said the team wants at least a 60-percent public contribution.
Despite Fabiani’s constant criticism of the city, Grubman said there has been progress in San Diego.
"I measure these things very simple. It’s not complicated," Grubman said. "There was nothing on the table for anyone to discuss a year ago. There is something on the table that political leadership in the city and the county are discussing. They’re trying to prove out their case; their case being that you can build a stadium at Mission Valley, you can get it financed, it can be attractive and any environmental challenges can be dealt with. They’re working on that, and that is forward progress as compared to a year ago."
City Councilman Scott Sherman gave an impassioned speech. He said Fabiani’s claims that the city hasn’t been able to accomplish anything "is the furthest thing from the truth."
Sherman said that while city leaders have come and gone, "the one constant is Mr. Fabiani’s employment of the San Diego Chargers. He has been nothing but negative the whole time."
A similar hearing was held Tuesday night in St. Louis and one will be held Thursday night in Oakland.
The San Diego hearing came three days after the Chargers were embarrassed at home by the Raiders, 37-29. The game drew at least 50 percent Raiders fans.
Many at Wednesday night’s hearing vented on Fabiani, criticized the plan to move to Carson and told stories about growing up Chargers fans. Many said they would not drive up the freeway to games if the team moves, and many said the name Chargers should stay in San Diego.
There weren’t many questions of the four NFL executives who sat on stage.
"I don’t view the audience as being disrespectful or anything like that," Grubman said. "I think they were very passionate. I think they chose to, as a group, express their points of views and pour out their emotion rather than ask questions. … I do not think it gave the fans the satisfaction that they’re seeking that the tide would turn tonight. I recognize they want to be part of it, and they want to be part of a victory."
The NFL said it distributed 1,000 tickets. The crowd was estimated at 450.
Fabiani said Friday that the team will file for relocation because he believes the Rams and Raiders will as well. NFL owners could vote as early as January.