Mexico City will no longer be the site for one of the more anticipated regular-season showdowns in the 2018 NFL season.
Monday night’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams has been moved from Mexico City to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum amid concerns over poor field conditions in Estadio Azteca.
"The decision to move the Chiefs-Rams game to L.A. was based in consultation with the NFLPA and following a meeting and field inspection this afternoon by NFL and club field experts as well as local and independent outside experts," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.
The Rams had been training in Colorado Springs, Colo. since Monday to prepare for Mexico City's 7,300-foot altitude, but they'll head back home now for the game in their stadium. It was billed as a "home" game for the Rams initially in Mexico City, but now it's truly on their home turf at the Coliseum, where they're 5-0 this season.
This game was billed as an international showcase for the 9-1 Rams and the 9-1 Chiefs, one of the latest meetings of two one-loss teams in recent NFL history, in Week 11. The future of games in Mexico City is unknown at this point.
The NFL plans to release information on ticket reimbursement in the coming days. NFL teams forgoing a home game to play internationally are required by league bylaws to keep their home stadium available in a contingency situation. The Rams will be announcing ticket information for Monday night's game shortly, as well.
Rumblings of the players for both teams wanting to boycott the game had risen in recent days when photographs of the field's condition made their way through social media. A recent concert at Estadio Azteca reportedly left the field in poor condition, and recent efforts to repair or replace the playing surface apparently had not quelled fears over potential injury.
"We have worked extensively with our partners at Estadio Azteca for months in preparation for this game," NFL executive vice president of international Mark Waller said. "Until very recently, we had no major concerns. But, the combination of a difficult rainy season and a heavy multi-event calendar of events at the stadium, have resulted in significant damage to the field that presents unnecessary risks to player safety and makes it unsuitable to host an NFL game.
"As a result, we have determined that moving the game is the right decision, and one that we needed to announce now in order to allow our teams and fans to make alternate arrangements."
Although both the Rams and Chiefs have a Week 12 bye, the league apparently didn't want to postpone the game until the field was considered playable. The fact that Thanksgiving fell on next week's calendar clearly affected that timing.
The Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots played a game at Estadio Azteca last season, but Patriots head coach Bill Belichick complained about many of the logistics and conditions for the game afterward.
"They're not used to having an NFL team, so it took a lot of manpower, a lot of hours and energy out of our organization to do that," Belichick said on WEEI last November after the Patriots' win over the Raiders.