70 Years of NFL Relocations
Football fans are once again reminded they don’t own their home teams. The Oakland Raiders’ planned move to Las Vegas marks the 11th time since the 1940’s that an NFL franchise is packing up for “greener” pastures.
The Cleveland Rams uprooted to Los Angeles in January, 1946, barely a month after winning the NFL championship. Battling persistent financial woes and unforgiving Midwest winters, the lure of California was too tempting for owner Dan Reeves. It didn’t hurt either that Rams QB Bob Waterfield was married to Hollywood glamor star, Jane Russell.
The Rams became California’s first professional sports franchise.
The Bidwill family moved the Chicago Cardinals to St Louis in 1960 on a losing note- the team had lumbered through a dismal decade and were overshadowed by George Halas’ dominant Bears. Initially, the nearly bankrupt Cardinals couldn’t afford the NFL’s hefty relocation fee but the league softened its terms, fearing startup rival AFL would grab the St Louis market.
In 1988, Bill Bidwill picked up the Cards again and headed for the sunbelt in Arizona, leaving behind an aging stadium and a mediocre playing record.
The search for upgraded facilities and luxury boxes devolved into legal morass for Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. The inveterate businessman transplanted his team to Los Angeles in 1982 but not before filing an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL to clear the way.
Two years later, drama unfolded in the east coast when the Baltimore Colts departed for Indianapolis with an eminent domain threat on their tail. Under the cover of darkness on March 29, 1984, fifteen long-haul trucks loaded the team’s possessions and hastily drove for the state line.
Lawsuits reached the Supreme Court but owner Robert Irsay prevailed and the Baltimore Colts were reduced to a sentimental relic- the team’s Super Bowl V trophy stayed in the city.
Baltimore acquired a new franchise twelve years later when Art Modell replanted the Cleveland Browns’ personnel as the Ravens. The move was a replacement, not a relocation- the Browns’ name, logo and history remained in Cleveland.
By 1995, the Raiders’ and Rams’ fortunes were sagging and southern California was mired in recession. With public funds short for stadium improvements, including for earthquake damage repairs, both teams left- the Raiders back to Oakland and the Rams to St Louis.
The second largest media market in the country was effectively deprived of an NFL team for the next 21 years.
In Texas, Houston Oilers Bud Adams locked horns with the city over renovations to the Astrodome and eventually took off for Tennessee in 1997. House Majority Tom Delay even introduced a Bill in Congress to block the move though it failed to garner support.
A generation on and the quest for dollars and new stadiums remains unchanged. In 2016, the Rams made their way back to Los Angeles, which also picked up the San Diego Chargers for the 2017 season.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
FOOTBALL December 15, 2008 Sam Bradford of the University of Oklahoma is recipient of the Heisman Trophy. Bradford was only the 2nd sophomore to win the award as he led the highest scoring offense in NCAA history, throwing for 4,464 yards and 48 touchdowns. He later joined the St Louis Rams and was named NFL Rookie of The Year in 2010.
BOXING December 9, 1998 Boxing champ Archie Moore dies at the age of 81. Competing from 1935-63, Moore held the light-heavy title for a record number of years but the Mississippi-born pugilist couldn’t clinch the lineal world heavyweight category; he twice lost a shot at that title, to Rocky Marciano (1955) and to Floyd Patterson (1956).
BASKETBALL December 14, 1988 Following a string of 17 losses, the NBA’s Miami Heat win their first game ever by defeating the LA Clippers 89-88. One of 4 new expansion teams to the league, the Heat was founded by Carnival Corporation owner Micky Arison. The Heat would eventually post 3 NBA championship titles, in 2006, 2012, and 2013.
TENNIS December 10, 1978 The U.S. beats Great Britain 4-1 at the 67th edition of the Davis Cup. The tournament was mired in political issues due to the inclusion of South Africa, which was an apartheid nation at the time. Several countries withdrew from the competition and South Africa itself was barred the following year and wouldn’t return until 1992.