Oakland Raiders — here to stay on the move
They’re leaving. They’re staying. They’re leaving. They’re staying.
Question: How much can a football follower trust a franchise if one’s tattoo (warning: you can’t unsee this) is far more permanent than that team’s address?
We know the answer. You can’t. And yet, East Bay Area Raiders fans still do. Even though their team has been ripped away from them by the Davis family and only returned upon promises of untold riches, the team is almost certainly on its way out of town — again — to Sin City. Or Carson. Or anyplace that is not Oakland, California.
Here I come to save the day
Unless it’s not, thanks to former Los Angeles Raider Ronnie Lott. That’s right. The former Raider player that spent most of his Hall of Fame career playing for the crosstown (kinda) rival San Francisco 49ers never actually played for the Oakland Raiders. He was a Los Angeles Raider (1991 – 1992). Now Lott’s stadium ownership group is Oakland’s only hometown hope.
Lott currently resides in Cupertino, Calif. Close enough. The Raiders will take any form of hometown hero.
Question: How do you protect a fan base and ensure their local team stays put? You threaten to leave, with leverage. That’s right. The only way to get your team to stay, is to have a viable option to leave — which is the only way in today’s NFL economics to get your own local populace to pony up enough green to build a billion-dollar stadium for a billionaire ownership group.
This Example A of a double-edge sword is a dangerous game, indeed. In order to get what you want, someone else that is both hungrier and richer has to step in and make a tantalizing offer.
Let’s root-root-root for the home team. Wait, what? They don’t love us back? Are you implying my tattoo was a poor decision?
You must pay the rent
“With leverage” is the operative phrase. It’s not enough to want to shop for a richer venue (Las Vegas, Los Angeles / Carson, San Antonio, next Mark Davis whim). In order to squeeze your local municipality/county/state, you have to squeeze with emphasis.
Enter Roger Goodell. Depending on what day of the week Goodell is speaking, the previously verboten Sin City is now a potential League venue (March 28, 2016). Or it’s just too soon to talk about the Raiders moving (May 25, 2016) to Las Vegas. The NFL’s hardline approach to gambling on NFL games has now given way to an even higher-stakes game: franchise roulette.
Here’s how you play:
1. Own a billion-dollar-plus NFL team.
2. Decide that’s just not enough.
3. Scan the horizon for suckers.
4. Visit a few suckers and say nice things about them.
5. Get the NFL Commissioner to publicly endorse your desire to squeeze more money out of your fans. (Bonus power play: Get Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft to also endorse moving.)
Congratulations, you’re now playing NFL franchise roulette. The best part? You cannot lose. As long as you’re the owner.
How serious is the (let’s call it) Lott gambit? If anyone knows, they’re not saying. Reasons to be suspicious:
1. It’s late in the relative game. (Raiders have one-year deal for 2016 only … and an appetite for leaving.)
2. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is thus far not impressed with Lott’s plans.
3. The Raiders are skeptical. Or just toying with the idea. Or already set on leaving.
4. The Oakland A’s have more standing in Oakland (committed to stay with 10-year lease extension) … and they also want a new stadium.
5. Hey, at least we tried (wink) — The NFL is eager to showcase their support for a minority-owned NFL stadium — whether it happens or not.
The ball is still in Mark Davis’ court. Is this just another case of a greedy NFL owner callously toying with his devoted fan base, whose fault it is decidedly not that their local government cannot afford yet another billion-dollar-plus stadium investment? Quite possibly.
The Raiders already left once. Can lightning strike twice? It can if you’re wearing a tin hat and standing under a power pole.
Somebody oughta move.