Aug. 3 2016 12:29 AM

Contract dispute shows team is stubborn, cheap and dysfunctional

Joey Bosa

My wonderful new wife had never heard of Joey Bosa. “Is he the downtown condo guy?” she sweetly guessed.

No, that’s Nat Bosa, the high-rise developer building Pacific Gate, where the low-end units start at $1.2 million.

Soon, Joey Bosa may be able to make a down payment in cash on a Pacific Gate condo. But for now, the San Diego Chargers’ top draft pick is going head-to-head with the team over who pays what and when. Sound familiar, San Diego?

The headline last week on sportingnews.com was, “Joey Bosa vs. Chargers a case of mutually assured dysfunction.” Sports diehards know this refers to a contract dispute with a top player who remains unsigned even though training camp started over the past weekend. If such news is outside your regular radar, consider honing in for a moment. It’s not hard to make the connection that the way Dean Spanos’ ownership team approaches a financial deal with a potential marquee employee is not far afield from how it would hardball the city (i.e., taxpayers) if a proposed new stadium deal gets voter approval this November.

Any shade of lipstick you put on this pigskin predicament with Bosa makes the Chargers look shamelessly stubborn and Scrooge-ishly cheap. Is that the stuff of a trusted partner who deserves a billion-dollar public handout for a new stadium?

“…it is no secret around the league that the Chargers prudently manage their cash flow.” That’s how unabashed stadium supporter and San Diego Union-Tribune sports columnist Kevin Acee recently described the team’s historical approach to business dealings and its current impasse with Bosa.

In a nutshell, here’s what has happened with the team and the Ohio State University defensive end. The Chargers picked him third overall in the college draft. He was offered a four-year contract and a $17-million signing bonus. Boo-hoo, right? Well, the former Buckeye and the Chargers disagree on two aspects of the contract. One is “offset language,” which refers to who compensates a player if he is released by a team and re-signs with another one before his rookie contract is up. The second issue is about when the signing bonus gets paid. Bosa wants it ASAP. The team wants to pay the bonus in an installment plan. Doing that could save the Chargers a couple hundred thousand dollars. (Google the phrase “penny wise and pound foolish” and don’t be surprised if the Bolts logo pops up.)

Fact is, the NFL has guidelines for rookie contracts. And the Chargers are approaching this negotiation outside the norm, according to Mike Florio of Profootballtalk.com. He reports that 16 of 20 of top-five picks from 2012- 15 received either no offset language or no deferral of signing bonus. Various reports say the Chargers want Bosa to suck it up and take both, and that since back in May, Bosa’s agent has asked for just one or the other (like most NFL teams agree to).

This year, Bosa is now the only first-round draft pick—among all NFL teams—who has not signed a contract for the upcoming season.

Later this year, the Chargers want the citizens of San Diego to go to the polls and vote to raise the local hotel occupancy tax by 4 percent to raise one billion dollars to help pay for a new downtown stadium.

Can those who would vote for the Chargers Initiative look at the Bosa negotiation and expect that if this stadium deal miraculously passes the team won’t nickel and dime the city at every turn and try to pass on covering any potential cost overruns?

Unvarnished, the team is stubborn and cheap. Even a fanatic would say the Chargers “prudently manage their cash flow.” National sports experts call the team financially “dysfunctional.”

Team Spanos would be well served at the ballot box by putting a winning team on the field. By all reports, Bosa could be a big step in that direction. But the local team has a history of doing financial deals “The Charger Way,” and that means keeping a tight fist on its wallet with one hand while the other is stuck forward with palm facing upward and open wide.

Vote to give this team a billion dollars and it’ll find reasons to keep squeezing taxpayers for even more. Joey Bosa is the latest example of The Charger Way.

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