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SUPER BOWL REPORT

Tagliabue Says San Diego Situation Is 'Urgent'

January 31, 2004|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

HOUSTON — NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, disappointed a year ago because the San Diego Chargers weren't on track for a new stadium, said Friday that San Diego's stadium situation had grown more urgent.

"Right now, I think there's, unfortunately, some sense of a growing impasse and an absence of a sense of urgency," he said during his annual Super Bowl weekend news conference. "And what we're going to try to do, by working with the city, with the mayor, with his staff and with the Chargers, is try to avoid an impasse and get a sense of urgency back in the process. Because I think it is an urgent situation."

Tagliabue said he'd met last month with San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy and had a "very good" discussion about the issues that needed to be addressed to move things forward.

The Chargers filed suit in Los Angeles against San Diego last fall, not seeking money but a judge's determination that the organization had met the financial criteria to trigger the renegotiation clause in its Qualcomm Stadium lease.

Although San Diego politicians have yet to officially determine whether the Chargers have met those criteria, some of them have said they didn't believe the team had done so. Tagliabue said the league's position was that the Chargers had done what they needed to do to trigger renegotiation.

Under the terms of the lease, the Chargers have the authority to listen to offers from other cities as soon as they have triggered.

"To me, the key thing is that, to the Chargers' credit, they've continued to focus on getting something done in San Diego," Tagliabue said. "And they haven't, to this point, been actively pursuing opportunities elsewhere, whether it's in Los Angeles or otherwise."

Tagliabue answered questions on several other subjects, among them the Maurice Clarett case, the possibility of larger fines for over-the-top celebrations, officiating in the playoffs, and the global reach of the nation's most successful sports league.

On Clarett, the suspended Ohio State running back who's suing the NFL over its rule that a player must be three years removed from high school to be eligible for the draft: "We're not having any discussions of settlement.... We think the benefits of the rule in the context of our player system and our collective-bargaining agreement are quite clear. That's why we're defending it."

On celebrations such as those of New Orleans receiver Joe Horn, who pulled a cellphone from under a goalpost pad and made a call after a touchdown: "Take taunting out of the game, take unsportsmanlike conduct out of the game. Cellphones, pens, all the other things -- penalties likely will escalate if this does not stop."

On whether games are officiated more loosely in the playoffs than they are during the regular season: "Our officiating is consistent in the regular season and in the postseason. I didn't see anything dramatically different in the postseason. After the New England-Indianapolis game, there was a flurry of ideas that all of a sudden we were letting things take place in that game that had negatively affected the offense on the Indianapolis side.... What happened was the New England defense was on the field and not the Chiefs' defense."

On the game's future worldwide: "I'm a firm believer that sports will migrate around the globe, and they're doing that right now."

Then, Tagliabue made an uncharacteristic quip. "At some point," he said, "maybe we'll have a quarterback from China named Yao Fling."

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