By Tommy Hough
For the second time in 35 years, the Oakland Raiders are leaving Oakland. They won't be coming back any time soon.
Despite Oakland cobbling together deal after deal to entice the team to stay, it seems there was nothing they could do to make the city more attractive than the $750 million dollars of public and private money Las Vegas and Clark County were willing to put up for a new stadium and entertainment complex, even after casino magnate Sheldon Adelstein backed out of a Vegas casino deal last year. After all, Sheldon isn't crazy enough to use his own money to fund something in Las Vegas.
Nothing, not the Raiders' blue collar legacy, media market size and location in the booming Bay Area – one of the most expensive and lucrative in the nation – could convince owner Mark Davis to stay put.
Oakland limited what it would offer the Raiders because it didn't want to agree to anything that would kill their chances to get a new As stadium on the same grounds as the Alameda County Coliseum, which the Davis family has spent generations complaining about.
While this may not have been the deal-killer, it certainly was a component in Mark Davis' decision. Oakland's mayor was also determined – and rightfully so in my mind – not to use public funds to build a new stadium for the Raiders.
But as was the case with the Rams' move back to Los Angeles after 20 years in St. Louis, and of course, the Chargers ditching Qualcomm Stadium to instead play in temporary digs in an undersized stadium in Carson named for a scalping company, I see the greedy, detached hand of NFL owners here – especially one owner.
Only Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins, voted against the move at the owners' meeting yesterday in Phoenix, noting that not all the options to keep the team in place in Oakland were exhausted. But other than that lone vote, the rest of the NFL owners voted in lockstep with the guy who's making a killing off moving teams around. Who is it?
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. And if you can't stand the Cowboys, this will give you another reason to dislike them.
Jerry Jones owns a hospitality-marketing company called Legends, which sells naming rights, sponsorships and luxury suites for sports franchises, and what do you know, they've got the deal for the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium. This will likely be the largest naming-rights deal ever, even though Las Vegas is a city that was the foreclosure capitol of America seven years ago. Jones' Legends company is also selling luxury suites and sponsorships for the Rams and Chargers in L.A. See a pattern?
It was Jerry Jones who less-than-subtly helped clear the way for Dean Spanos to move the Chargers north. It was Jerry Jones who brokered the deal to get the Rams back to L.A. And It was Jerry Jones and Legends that pointed the way to Las Vegas for the Raiders, thereby leaving the 49ers, now in their new regionally-centered digs in Santa Clara, the only NFL franchise in the Bay Area. And guess whose company helped move the 49ers to Santa Clara?
Right, Jerry Jones and Legends. In fact, Legends has become so rich over the the last few years that the company is set to become more valuable than most NFL franchises.
And yet, the Raiders won't even begin playing in Las Vegas until 2019 or 2020. Which is sort of like a spouse coming home and telling their partner that despite all the attempts to salvage the relationship, they've found someone new and they're moving forward with a divorce. "Oh, but I'm not going to move out of the house for another two years or so. Do you mind?"
Not even Bolts fans had to put up with that in our decade-long divorce from the Chargers.
So Raiders fans, we can sympathize. And I've seen this before. I was living in Ohio when the Browns left Cleveland in the mid-90s. And that team went on to become the Baltimore Ravens. While the new Browns – still seem a lot like the old Browns.
A former San Diego broadcaster and media personality, Tommy Hough is a wilderness and conservation advocate, communications professional, California Democratic Party delegate, and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action.