The message NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave to San Diego leaders Wednesday was clear: If you want to keep the Chargers, you can’t have a public vote.

A vote has been the bedrock of Chargers stadium plans forever, and Mayor Kevin Faulconer has committed to holding one before he would hand over the $350 million in public funds he’s offered the team.

But Goodell said that all three cities whose teams are threatening to move to Los Angeles – San Diego, Oakland and St. Louis – needed to deliver final plans to the league by Dec. 28 and that those plans must have “certainty.”

“Certainty means no further votes required, that there is a deal that is fully approved, that there are not complications that are unforeseen, that this project can be completed. It’s that simple,” Goodell said at the league’s owners meeting outside Dallas, according to the Union-Tribune.

Cities that didn’t have certain plans were out of the running, Goodell said. He specifically called out San Diego as not meeting the league’s requirements right now.

For months, the league has sent signals that a public vote was too pesky. St. Louis officials even wriggled out of one there earlier this year, one of the main reasons that city is seen as ahead of San Diego in the stadium funding game.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

Most recently, NFL attorneys told San Diego officials the vote was a big risk in the city’s plan. (The city responded by saying the mayor is so popular a vote would be no big deal – though we’ve detailed the myriad reasons its chances would hardly be a slam dunk.)

Even if Faulconer were to abandon his public vote pledge, it’s unclear if he’d be able to get things done to the NFL’s liking at this late stage. In any case, the City Council and County Board of Supervisors would have to sign off on the plan. And then there’s any prospective challenge to the city’s environmental review of the project.

But that’s not going to happen, the mayor said. His spokesman, Matt Awbrey, said the mayor’s commitment to a public vote is “unwavering.”

The impasse between the city, league and team that’s been coming for a while is finally here. The NFL’s machinations might not result in the Chargers leaving San Diego. But as the U-T’s editorial board put it Thursday morning, San Diego doesn’t have a say in what happens anymore.

    This article relates to: Chargers Stadium, Government

    Written by Liam Dillon

    Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

    Jay Byrd
    Jay Byrd

    If there is one thing San Diego knows, it is losers.  Look at the team we have when they are trying to impress us.  Imagine giving them a new stadium unquestioned.  Yea, we know losers, we have the Chargers.  And, forget that "next year" jargon.  I hope next year is in L.A. !!!!!!!  Let them pay millions for mediocrity. Since when does the NFL tell us we have no say.

    Bob Stein
    Bob Stein subscriber

    Nothing is for certain.  But context matters. 

    Certainty #1:

    A majority of San Diegans don’t want to pay for a new stadium.  The Mayor claims his polls show otherwise.  My guess is the NFL has their own polls and knows the real score.  

    Certainty #2:

    The Mayor wants it both ways.  He wants those against a new stadium to see him as on their side.  He wants those for a new stadium to see him as on their side.  He is lost in the middle.  It’s becoming increasingly obvious “lost in the middle” is the way this guy operates.

    Certainty #3:

    The Chargers are nuts to stay in the 28th largest TV market if they can jump to the 2nd, which is also the center of influence for all 22 million Southern Californians, meaning they can dominate fan interest in football in San Diego without actually playing here.

    Certainty #4:

    Should events lead to it, the Briggs initiative may turn into the Hail Mary pass that saves the Chargers for San Diego and resident taxpayers from another stadium boondoggle.

    Mystic Traveler
    Mystic Traveler subscriber

    The NFL is doubling down on their ongoing boondoggle of conning cities into paying for stadiums and making the sports franchises rich at the public's expense. San Diego has the intelligence and determination to not let itself be scammed into giving away the public funds needed to repair infrastructure and build important projects like water desalination facilities.

    Susan Laddon
    Susan Laddon subscriber

    I don't profess to know anything about the NFL, so there's that. Here's what I do know--- Or think I know. America/Americans tend to NOT like losers. IE: Aren't the Chargers basically-- abysmally bad? So, not for nothing-- but isn't it time to let it go? I dunno. I for one, don't want my family and friends' hard earned tax $$$ going to build a bagillion dollar stadium for a losing team-- OK, let's face it. I don't want tax $$ going to pay for any stadium for any team. Geebus. Take that $$ and re-vamp the Convention Center so we can keep Comic-Con-- which generates some pretty impressive revenue-- guaranteed, every freakin' summer.  If someone wants to argue that if we fixed the stadium, we could host the Super Bowl-- I'm fairly certain the NFL/Super Bowl people abandoned us more than a few years back-- waay before this whole 'Chargers threaten to leave' thing happened--- but I may have just undermined my entire argument-- except no, because  hey Chargers? How bout you WIN consistently, THEN come back at us and whine? 

    Mike subscriber

    @Susan Laddon Counter to popular belief, hosting a Superbowl doesn't bring in city revenue either, after considering all the public safety and infrastructure expenses.  Economic studies have shown that the large revenue figures cited by organizers are heavily bloated with spending projections while disregarding most of the real costs to the host city.  In MOST cases, hosting the Superbowl actually costs cities money.

    Mike subscriber

    These games are getting old. At this point can anyone take what the NFL says at face value? Anything the Chargers say? Anything Faulconer says? Everybody has their own ulterior motives and hidden agendas, motivated by either profits, politics, or both.  San Diego should just let the NFL move on to do whatever they feel they need to do. San Diego has bigger fish to fry, including infrastructure, housing, and a host of other public services where it's more appropriate to spend public money.

    David Benz
    David Benz subscriber

    @Bill Bradshaw I don't give Faulconer credit for being smart enough to not commit political suicide.  He and Roberts were tripping over themselves trying to give away $350 million of our money.

    It will all be over in less than four weeks.

    Mike subscriber

    @Bill Bradshaw @Mike Should Faulconer care if he gets "blamed" for "losing" the Chargers?  Is that what Gretchen Newsome will do during the re-election campaign?

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    @Mike Yeah, you can take what Mayor Faulconer said, there's going to be a vote.  He backed it up yesterday by saying "Our offer is our offer".  Now you can blame him, if it happens, for "losing" the Chargers. 

    The mayor seems to be tiring of the Chargers schtick.  Anyone else getting sick of this charade of a "selection" process?  Our worst nightmare could turn out to be that they refuse to leave.  

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    It seems to me to be reasonable for San Diego leadership to say no to the NFL or to say yes and here's a meaningful offer. Either option can be justified. What can't be justified is dithering and then blaming the outcome on fate.