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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Uncertainty is only thing certain about Vikings moving to L.A.

As some signs point to the Minnesota Vikings entertaining a move to L.A., others point to the team staying put. A pow-wow Friday doesn't exactly clear things up.

April 20, 2012|Sam Farmer
  • NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell takes part in a news conference after meeting with the Minnesota governor and state lawmakers on Friday.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell takes part in a news conference after meeting… (Jim Mone / Associated Press )

It's happening again, conjecture that an NFL team is headed to Los Angeles. This time, it's the Minnesota Vikings, although NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell insisted Friday that neither the team nor the league has raised that possibility.

"There were no implied threats or any threats at all," Goodell told reporters outside the office of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton. "What we talked about is the importance of creating a solution here."

That isn't likely to calm the frayed nerves of Vikings fans, whose team has spent the past decade searching for a stadium solution. The latest plans hit the skids Monday, when the club's bid for a $975-million stadium — more than half of which would be publicly funded — died in a state House committee. Late Friday, Vikings spokesman Jeff Anderson said on Twitter that the stadium bill passed in the Senate Local Government Committee by an 8-6 vote. The revived bill now moves to the Jobs and Economic Growth Committee.

Dayton told reporters the topic of L.A. was raised once during the meeting.

"One of us — a legislator — brought the subject up," the governor said. The NFL "said they would like to have a team in Los Angeles [and] they would like to have it not be the Vikings."

If all of this sets rolling eyes in motion on the West Coast, it should. The league has a long history of using the L.A. vacancy to get stadium deals done in other locales, essentially scaring those NFL cities into helping pay for venues or risk losing their teams. It happened with Seattle, New Orleans, Indianapolis and various NFL cities in between.

But don't be so quick to dismiss the latest Minnesota meltdown as another hollow threat. The facts that the NFL has gotten heavily involved and that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf is said to be beyond frustrated, makes this a development worth watching.

Goodell has a reputation as a no-nonsense, sometimes ruthless negotiator who's far more concerned with the deal than his popularity. He is going to do what he feels is best for the league and his 32 bosses, and if some toes are crunched in the process, well, that's just the cost of doing business.

With AEG on its way to a certified environmental impact report, the NFL will soon have two viable stadium options in the L.A. market — proposed venues downtown and in the city of Industry — and either could be moving dirt by next spring.

The Vikings' lease at the Metrodome expired after the 2011 season, and the team is not committed to staying beyond next January.

Minnesota is one of several potential relocation candidates in a group that includes the St. Louis Rams, the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders. The Jaguars are likely to remain in Jacksonville, at least in the short term, as new owner Shad Khan has indicated his commitment to stay in the area.

Goodell knows the L.A. situation as well as anyone in the league, as he was the NFL's stadium czar in the late 1990s, when groups from Southern California and Houston were competing for the expansion club that would become the Texans.

Goodell is especially sensitive to doing anything that might be perceived as crying wolf about Southern California. A few years ago, he declined a request by The Times to participate in a town-hall meeting about the NFL in L.A. because he didn't want to send the message that anything was imminent.

That's markedly different from his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, who oversaw the unprecedented growth of the league but was seldom shy about banging the L.A. drum when necessary.

If we've learned anything about Goodell in his six years as commissioner, it's that he doesn't make idle threats and he doesn't pay much attention to how his toughest decisions play with fans. Ask the New Orleans Saints about that.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesfarmer

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