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Monday, October 31, 2011
Has the NFL forgotten about L.A.?

By Arash Markazi

On Sunday the NFL played its 29th game outside of the United States since the Raiders and Rams left Los Angeles in 1995, when the Buffalo Bills defeated the Washington Redskins, 23-0, in Toronto. A week earlier the Chicago Bears defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 24-18, in London.

There have been a total of 30 games (10 regular season and 20 exhibition) scheduled in 10 cities in seven countries since Los Angeles and Orange County held their last NFL games on Dec. 24, 1994. Since then the NFL has not held a single regular season or exhibition game in the Los Angeles area.

Despite overtures by AEG to hold the NFL draft at the Nokia Theatre in L.A. Live or by the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to host the Super Bowl or the Pro Bowl there, neither venue has been seriously considered.

The Coliseum was the home of the first Super Bowl in 1967 as well as Super Bowl VII. The Coliseum also was the home of the first NFL Pro Bowl and held the game from 1950-1971 and was the last stateside venue to host it in 1979 (before the game was moved to Hawaii for all but one season).

Despite Los Angeles’ rich NFL history, the city has been virtually ignored by the NFL since the Raiders moved to Oakland and the Rams moved to St. Louis.

League officials, however, claim they have not forgotten about Los Angeles. They would just rather place a franchise back in the city than stage occasional games and events there.

"As we’ve taken our games to other places it’s really been to increase fan awareness and increase fan engagement," said NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman earlier this year. “We have high fan engagement in the Los Angeles market so we haven’t felt that we had to take games there to stimulate that. It is possible that we might have neutral site U.S. games but that is not our objective for Los Angeles. Our objective is to return a full franchise there.”

As far as becoming the future site of the Super Bowl and possibly the Pro Bowl, Grubman said Los Angeles, as well as other NFL cities in California, would need to get a new stadium for that to happen.

“When we stage a Super Bowl we need a certain number of seats and we need to have a fan experience for the premium event that it is,” Grubman said. “I can’t really in my mind solve all the logistics and problems that would be presented in the stadiums that currently exist [in California] in the condition they exist. I don’t believe we could stage a Super Bowl given the condition of the stadiums that currently exist in California.”