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The San Diego Chargers are no more. The team reportedly plans on officially announcing its intention to move to Los Angeles on Thursday, ending a stay that began in 1961 as a member of the American Football League.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter and of the Union-Tribune reported the news.
“More than anything I’m shocked,” Chargers defensive tackle Corey Liuget said, per ESPN’s Josina Anderson. “I didn’t think it was going to happen. I thought we were going to stay in San Diego…I thought something would’ve got done and worked out…So I guess L.A. is our new home then.”
The Chargers were given an option to relocate to Los Angeles last year as part of the agreement that sent the Rams franchise to Southern California. Ownership initially had until Jan. 15 to make a decision on relocation, but that date was pushed back to Jan. 17, per Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com.
Official relocation paperwork has not been finalized, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and other owners have been informed.
The move would block the Oakland Raiders from moving to Los Angeles. The Raiders franchise would have had the option had the Chargers decided to stay in San Diego.
The Chargers played their inaugural season (1960) in Los Angeles but have been a San Diego staple for the last 55-plus years. They won the 1963 AFL championship and made Super Bowl XXIX, losing to the San Francisco 49ers.
Chargers chairman Dean Spanos has unsuccessfully tried to land a new stadium with taxpayer funding for the better part of two decades. Qualcomm Stadium, which opened in 1967, is the fifth oldest among current NFL stadiums. While Soldier Field and Lambeau Field have undergone massive renovations for the sake of modernization, Qualcomm has lagged behind.
In November, San Diego citizens voted against funding for a new Chargers stadium.
“We are going to diligently explore and weigh our options, and do what is needed to maintain our options, but no decision will be announced until after the football season concludes and no decision will be made in haste,” Spanos wrote in a statement at the time.
Former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon was critical of San Diego and Oakland:
If OAK & SD leave & it looks like they will, both mayors should resign! Embarrassing! I know for a fact how hard both teams worked to stay!
— Rich Gannon (@RichGannon12) January 12, 2017
The Chargers will share the Los Angeles Coliseum with the Rams for the next two seasons before moving into a $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood, which is expected to open in 2019. That stadium proposal beat out one offered by the Chargers and Raiders, which would have allowed both teams to move to Los Angeles before the 2016 season.
The move to L.A. gives the nation’s second-biggest city two teams after going two decades without an NFL franchise. The Rams went a dismal 4-12 during their first campaign back in L.A. and may wind up as second-tier citizens in their own city. The Chargers struggled to a 5-11 record but have a franchise quarterback in Philip Rivers, an exciting young running back in Melvin Gordon and are in the midst of hiring a new coach.
A year ago, the Chargers chose to give San Diego one last shot to fund a new stadium. With the Raiders potentially pouncing, however, economics finally won out, and a relationship of nearly six decades has come to a disappointing close.
Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.