History of the Los Angeles Chargers

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The current wordmark logo for the Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers are a professional American football team that currently plays in the National Football League. The Chargers were established in 1960 and played one season in Los Angeles before moving to San Diego in 1961. The team returned to Los Angeles in 2017.

Beginnings: The 1960 AFL Season[edit]

The Los Angeles Chargers were established with seven other American Football League teams in 1959. In 1960, the Chargers began AFL play in Los Angeles.[1] The Chargers' original owner was hotel heir Barron Hilton, son of Hilton Hotels founder Conrad Hilton.[1]

According to the official website of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Barron Hilton agreed after his general manager, Frank Leahy, picked the Chargers name when he purchased an AFL franchise for Los Angeles: "I liked it because they were yelling ‘charge’ and sounding the bugle at Dodgers Stadium and at USC games."[2] The Chargers initially considered playing at the Rose Bowl, but instead signed a lease to play at the Los Angeles Coliseum.[3]

Los Angeles Chargers 1960 wordmark

In 1960, the Chargers began AFL play in Los Angeles; both Barron Hilton and Conrad Hilton unveiled the Chargers' uniforms which featured blue and gold with lightning bolts on the sides of the helmets and trousers,[4] at a cocktail party at Hilton's Santa Monica residence. Players Jack Kemp and Ron Mix modeled the new uniforms.[5] On the field, the Chargers overcame a 20–7 deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat the Dallas Texans 21–20 before 17,724 persons in the L.A. Coliseum in the opening league game. A crowd of 9,928 in the L.A. Coliseum watched the Chargers top the Denver Broncos 41–33 to clinch the AFL Western Division title.[6] American Broadcasting Company (ABC) held the television rights and televised key games. On January 1, a crowd of 32,183 in Jeppesen Stadium and a national television audience saw host the Houston Oilers defeat the Chargers 24–16 in the AFL championship game.[7][8]

San Diego Era[edit]

The Chargers only spent one season in Los Angeles before moving to San Diego in 1961.[1] Initially denied in December, 1960,[9] but announced in late January, 1961, owner Barron Hilton relocated the Chargers down the coast to a soon-to-be expanded Balboa Stadium at Balboa Park in San Diego for the 1961 season,[10][11][12] their home field until 1966. In August 1967, they moved to the newly constructed San Diego Stadium (later renamed Jack Murphy Stadium, then Qualcomm Stadium), where they played their home games until 2016.

The Chargers won their only AFL Championship when they defeated the Boston Patriots in the 1963 AFL Championship Game. After the 1970 merger with the NFL, the team made their lone Super Bowl appearance in 1994, a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX.

Carson Stadium Plan[edit]

By the late 2000s, Qualcomm Stadium, one of the last remaining venues in the league to have been built as a multi-purpose stadium, was becoming obsolete. Potential independent stadium projects intended to lure a team to Los Angeles targeted the Chargers as one of several teams that could potentially relocate to Los Angeles.[13][14] The Chargers were seen as a potentially favorable candidate, given their history in Southern California, the ease in which they could opt out of their current stadium deal, and owner Alex Spanos's advanced age and senility (raising the possibility that son and heir apparent Dean Spanos could be willing to sell a portion of the team in the event of his father's death). The Chargers, during this time frame, publicly committed to stay in San Diego each year and rejected the offers of other stadium developers.

In 2014, the Chargers, the St. Louis Rams, and the Oakland Raiders all intimated they might apply for relocation to Los Angeles at the end of the season. The Chargers announced in December 2014 that they would not be seeking to relocate for the 2015 season, followed by an announcement from the NFL that no team would relocate to L.A. until the 2016 season at the earliest.[15]

In 2015, team spokesperson Mark Fabiani continued to bash the local San Diego city government's efforts to negotiate a replacement for Qualcomm Stadium. When the St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke announced in January 2015 his intention to build a new stadium in Inglewood, California, the Chargers felt pressured to announce their own Los Angeles plan to preserve what they claimed was "25 percent of their fan base" in the affluent Los Angeles and Orange County areas. In February 2015, the team announced a stadium proposal in Carson, California, in partnership with the Oakland Raiders, their AFC West divisional rivals.[16]

The day following the conclusion of the 2015 regular season, the Chargers, Rams, and Raiders all filed to relocate to Los Angeles.[17] On January 12, 2016, the NFL owners voted 30–2 to allow the Rams to return to Los Angeles and approved the Inglewood stadium project over the Carson project. The Chargers were given a one-year approval to relocate, conditioned on negotiating a lease agreement with the Rams or an agreement to partner with the Rams on the new stadium construction.[18]

On January 14, 2016, the team filed paperwork for official trademark protection of the term "Los Angeles Chargers" for the purposes of running and marketing a professional football franchise.[19] Later in January, the Chargers submitted to the City of Santa Ana grading and landscape plans for a five-acre parcel of land in the city that could be used as the location of interim headquarters and training facilities "in the event the team exercises its option to relocate to the Los Angeles area."[20] After two weeks of negotiation, the Chargers and Rams came to an agreement in principle on sharing the planned SoFi Stadium on January 29, 2016. The Chargers would contribute a $200 million stadium loan from the NFL and personal seat license fees to the construction costs and would pay $1 per year in rent to the Rams.[21]

As an incentive to work out a stadium deal in their current market, the NFL pledged $100 million to the Chargers if they come to an agreement with the city of San Diego.[18] While the team had until March 2016 to decide if they would relocate to Los Angeles for the 2016 season, Chargers chairman/CEO Dean Spanos announced on January 29, 2016, that the team would remain in San Diego for the season. The announcement stated that the team would also be working over the year with government and business leaders on a new stadium proposal that could keep the team in San Diego long-term.[22]

The Chargers had continued preliminary work on a ballot initiative for public approval on a new facility.[21] On February 23, 2016, the Chargers announced that their stadium efforts would be focused on a stadium in East Village, Downtown San Diego. On March 30, 2016, it was reported in the media that the details of the downtown stadium proposal were unveiled the stadium would be financed from $650 million from the team and the NFL, with a tax hike of $1.15 billion in bonds including $350 million city contribution, $600 million for the convention center, and $200 million to acquire land. On April 21, 2016, rendering of the proposed downtown stadium were unveiled by the Chargers and on April 23, 2016, the downtown stadium initiative signature collecting was launched with Roger Goodell, Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mike McCoy, and Dean Spanos. On June 10, 2016, the Chargers announced that they had collected 110,786 signatures for the downtown stadium initiative 1 month later on July 9, 2016, San Diego City Clerk Liz Malland announced that the downtown Chargers stadium initiative had secured enough valid signatures to be put on the November 2016 ballot. On July 18, 2016, the San Diego City Council voted 8–0 to put the Chargers stadium plan and the Citizens Plan on the November ballot. On July 28, 2016, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce announced its support of the Chargers downtown stadium proposal. On October 3, 2016, Mayor Kevin Faulconer officially announced his support of the Chargers stadium plan. On November 8, 2016, Measure C was voted down (57% opposed over 43% in support). On December 14, 2016, at an owners' meeting, the terms of the Chargers and Rams lease agreement, as well as the team's debt ceiling were approved thus taking the first steps for a possible relocation to Los Angeles in 2017. On December 23, 2016, the Chargers agreed to lease part of a Costa Mesa office campus for offices, practice fields, and training facility on nearly 3.2 acres.

Return to Los Angeles[edit]

Dignity Health Sports Park[edit]

Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, where the Chargers will play from 2017 to 2019

On January 12, 2017, Chargers chairman Dean Spanos announced in a letter that the team would be moving back to Los Angeles in time for the 2017 NFL Season.[23] The Chargers also announced the team would play their games at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson until the completion of SoFi Stadium in 2020.[24] There had been speculation that the team may rebrand itself similar to how the Houston Oilers ultimately became the Tennessee Titans in 1999. Unlike the situation between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, the Oilers' rebranding was done by the team's choice and not by court order. Plus, the Titans retained the franchise records of the Oilers, unlike the Ravens who technically became a new franchise when they arrived from Cleveland in 1996. Arguments in favor of keeping the team's current name include the fact that team already had a history in Los Angeles (however distant and brief) and the presence of the team's existing fan base in the area on account of being the only Southern California-based franchise for more than two decades. The Chargers have announced they had no immediate plans to rebrand after the relocation, although a new alternate logo incorporating the letters "LA" with a lightning bolt was unveiled with the relocation announcement and quickly scrapped after it was "widely ridiculed".[25][26][27][28]

Reaction to the relocation has not been without controversy. Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke welcomed the team to town by writing "We. Don't. Want. You."[29] At a game at the Staples Center between the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers, the Chargers' regular logo was shown on a scoreboard and was "booed heartily"[30] Chargers tight end Jeff Cumberland was also "jeered" by the crowd when featured on the big screen.

Anthony Lynn era[edit]

New beginnings[edit]

On January 13 2017, the Chargers fired defensive coordinator John Pagano, replacing him with former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley.[31] The Chargers also announced they had hired Anthony Lynn to be their next Head Coach.[32]

The Chargers narrowly missed the playoffs in 2017, losing out on a four-way tiebreaker with the Titans, Bills, and Ravens. In 2018, the Chargers finished the season 12–4 and went to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.


AFL Champions (1960–1969) Conference Champions Division Champions Wild Card Berth
Season Team League Conference Division Regular season Post-season results Awards Head coaches
Finish Wins Losses Ties
Los Angeles Chargers
1960 1960 AFL West 1st 10 4 0 Lost AFL Championship (Oilers) 24–16 Sid Gillman
San Diego Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers
2017 2017 NFL AFC West 2nd 9 7 0 Anthony Lynn
2018 2018 NFL AFC West 2nd 12 4 0 Won Wild Card Playoffs (at Ravens) 23–17
Lost Divisional Playoffs
(at Patriots) 41–28
Anthony Lynn
31 15 0 (1960 and 2017–present Regular season only)
1 2 0 (1960, 2017–present Post-season games only)
32 17 0 (1960, 2017–present Total for all games; 0 AFL Championship, 0 NFL Titles)

Hall of Famers[edit]

Los Angeles Chargers Hall of Famers
No. Player Position Tenure Inducted
74 Ron Mix OT 1960–1961 1979
Sid Gillman Head coach 1960–1961 1983

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "History". San Diego Chargers. Retrieved December 5, 2015.
  2. ^ "Franchise nicknames". Pro Football Hall of Fame. January 1, 2005. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  3. ^ "Chargers pick Coliseum over Rose Bowl". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  4. ^ Gruver, Ed (2011-01-14). The American Football League: A Year-by-Year History, 1960-1969. ISBN 9780786486601.
  5. ^ Griffith, R. D. (2012). To the NFL: You Sure Started Somethin': A Historical Guide of All 32 NFL Teams and the Cities They've Played in. ISBN 9781434916815.
  6. ^ "Chargers clinch Western crown". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. December 11, 1960. p. 2, sports.
  7. ^ "Blanda paces Oilers to AFL title". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. January 2, 1961. p. 44.
  8. ^ "Oilers stop LA pass attack, win AFL title contest, 24-16". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. Associated Press. January 2, 1961. p. 2C.
  9. ^ "Harry Wismer optimistic about future". Gettysburg Times. Pennsylvania. Associated Press. December 23, 1960. p. 5.
  10. ^ "LA Charger owner Hilton likes the setup in San Diego". Lodi News-Sentinel. California. UPI. January 7, 1961. p. 9.
  11. ^ "Chargers move south". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. January 25, 1961. p. 13.
  12. ^ "Chargers go to San Diego". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. Associated Press. January 25, 1961. p. 3B.
  13. ^ Mark Craig, "California stadium group to target would-be NFL tenants"[permanent dead link], Minneapolis Star Tribune, October 8, 2009.
  14. ^ "Stadium developer to ask six NFL teams to move to L.A.", Los Angeles Daily News, October 8, 2009.
  15. ^ Florio, Mike (December 20, 2014). "2016 becomes the target for an L.A. move". ProFootballTalk. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  16. ^ Farmer, Sam (February 20, 2015). "Chargers, Raiders will jointly pursue an NFL stadium in Carson". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  17. ^ Bien, Louis (January 4, 2016). "Rams, Raiders and Chargers file for relocation to Los Angeles". SB Nation. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  18. ^ a b Hanzus, Dan (January 12, 2016). "Rams to relocate to L.A.; Chargers first option to join". NFL.com. National Football League. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  19. ^ Daly, Thomas J. (January 22, 2016). "Are the San Diego Chargers Moving to Los Angeles?". The National Law Review. Lewis Roca Rothgerber LLP. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  20. ^ Acee, Kevin (January 28, 2016). "Chargers submit plans for O.C. facility". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
  21. ^ a b Acee, Kevin; Garrick, David; Wilkens, John (January 29, 2016). "Chargers here for a year -- then what?". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
  22. ^ Wesseling, Chris (January 29, 2016). "Chargers announce they will stay in San Diego for 2016". National Football League. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
  23. ^ Spanos, Dean (January 12, 2017). "Letter From Dean Spanos". Los Angeles Chargers. National Football League. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  24. ^ Klein, Chris (January 12, 2017). "An open letter from President Chris Klein to LA Galaxy supporters". LAGalaxy.com. Major League Soccer. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  25. ^ Florio, Mike (January 12, 2017). "Report: Chargers may rebrand in L.A." NBC Sports Pro Football Talk. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  26. ^ Florio, Mike. "Chargers admit mistake, ditch initial L.A. logo". ProFootballTalk. NBC Sports. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  27. ^ WIlson, Ryan. "Chargers: New L.A. logo a mistake, team 'miscalculated how it would be received'". CBS Sports. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  28. ^ "Los Angeles Chargers logo booed at Clippers-Lakers game". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  29. ^ Plaschke, Bill. "Chargers shouldn't look for a welcome wagon in L.A." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  30. ^ Togerson, Derek. "Chargers Logo Booed at Staples Center". NBCSanDiego.com. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  31. ^ Wold, Rachel (January 13, 2017). "John Pagano found out he was fired by Chargers through media". Sportsnaut. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  32. ^ Rosenthal, Gregg (January 13, 2017). "Chargers hire Anthony Lynn as their new head coach". NFL.com. National Football League. Retrieved 15 January 2017.