The Las Vegas-bound Oakland Raiders are 3-and-10 and heading in the wrong direction led by a $100 million coach reading from an outdated playbook.
The veteran general manager is jettisoned, the defensive star squandered. This year, the Raiders franchise makes the Trump administration look like it has its stuff together.
Hey, get your tickets early.
Las Vegans anxious for professional football in their own backyard should consider themselves fortunate the Raiders aren’t scheduled to arrive until 2020. That gives owner Mark Davis enough time to raise the ransom money he’ll need to have the real team released from wherever it’s being hidden while the current gaggle of imposters parades in the silver and black.
If this were just about football, it could be written off as a sports-page squabble instead of a front-page embarrassment. Historically, if this football team were a family it would be called the Sopranos. The trouble with the Raiders is, when not living in the cellar they hang out in the news headlines. It’s a sad fact that frothing Las Vegas sports fans may not care about, but definitely should get used to.
Now the Raiders and the rest of the NFL are being described as a “cartel” in a 49-page federal lawsuit filed this past week by the City of Oakland, which accuses the team and the league of violating federal antitrust laws and California statutes when it arranged to transfer the franchise to Las Vegas. The move was “rigged” and approved, the lawsuit alleges, in substantive part to carve up a $378 million relocation fee.
The city could offer a lot, its lawsuit alleges, but “Oakland’s offer did not, and could not, put tens of millions of additional dollars in additional supra-competitive cartel payments in the form of a relocation fee directly into the pockets of each of the remaining 31 NFL Club owners. Only relocating the Raiders did.”
Of course, none of it would have been possible without the breathless generosity of Nevada’s leading political lights, who worked overtime to help facilitate the creation of a $1.8 billion football stadium and other shining perquisites to make the Raiders feel like the biggest winners in Vegas history. That price tag includes $750 million hotel room tax revenue.
The lawsuit isn’t trying to prevent the Raiders from leaving Oakland — hey, East Bay residents have seen them play — but is seeking to recover what could end up being audacious damages.
In a methodical breakdown of the lawsuit that serves as a smackdown of the NFL’s outlaw franchise, law professor and SI legal analyst Michael McCann shows the pattern of activity by the Raiders and other NFL franchises. He writes, “The city seeks unspecified damages that could amount to many millions of dollars. The possibility of a massive penalty is heightened by the fact that damages under antitrust law are automatically multiplied by three. To be clear, even if Oakland’s lawsuit is successful it would not block the Raiders’ planned move. However, it could make the move a lot more expensive for Davis and the NFL.”
McCann reminds fans and foes alike of the Raiders’ history as “probably the NFL’s most roaming franchise.” It’s enough to make you suspect Davis is a major stockholder in Allied Van Lines.
The football honeymoon is grand, but the honeymoon never lasts. The team has a history of litigation almost as long as its record on the field.
The lawsuit alleges the team has breached its contract with the city and the community. Oakland has “invested and borrowed” more than $240 million to renovate the stadium in large part to house the Raiders and collect the millions of tax dollars its games generate.
Will the NFL and Raiders risk potentially costly and embarrassing pretrial discovery in the case? The league, McCann notes, has taken a series of major hits in recent years, including those associated with player concussions.
While the outcome of the litigation is uncertain, it appears more likely than ever the Raiders will play the 2019 season outside Oakland. Although the team has ruled out using the Sam Boyd Stadium, doing so would be a sign of good faith that the move to Las Vegas isn’t just a dash for the cash.
Given the characters involved, I suspect that might be asking too much.
Many observers have enthused that Las Vegas and the Raiders are made for each other. Both are known as dangerously entertaining. But there’s more to the community than that. We deserve better than to be played for carnival rubes.
With a little luck, the ugly Oakland lawsuit will be settled before the start of the 2020 season.
It offers Las Vegas a legal lesson, but one that figures to be drowned out by the roar of the crowd.
John L. Smith is an author and longtime columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith