By Tim Hunt
Raiders turn their back on East Bay FansUploaded: Mar 30, 2017
Welcome to the lame duck Oakland Raiders. NFL owners this week granted Raiders’ owner Mark Davis the right to move to Las Vegas, marking the second and presumably the final time the team will turn its back on Oakland and the East Bay.
It marks the third move for the team in 35 years. Mark’s dad, the legendary Al Davis, bailed out of Oakland Los Angeles in 1982. The politicians in the East Bay lured Al back 13 years later and built Mt. Davis, the upper deck and luxury boxes on the east side of the stadium for him. Now, it’s off to Vegas.
Mark learned well from his father. Al made a career of putting the Raiders first and taking eager politicians to the cleaners financially. Oakland and Alameda County taxpayer are still on the hook for $100 million that remains to be paid on the bonds issued for Mt. Davis.
The deal Davis negotiated with former county supervisor Don Perata and others was remarkable. A stadium authority set up by the Coliseum board was responsible for selling seat licenses (a bust) as well as the tickets. Davis controlled the product on the field and set the prices with no responsibility for selling tickets.
In my newspapering days, I sat in on a meeting with a Raiders’ marketing person and Alameda County fair officials. We were discussing how the Raiders could use the fair to help their efforts (The A’s grabbed the chance). The marketing person advised that he could participate if it helped build the Raider brand, but could do nothing to sell tickets.
While the team stumbled for years, ticket sales lagged.
The same thing happened in Los Angeles where the Raiders never caught on widely—it was and is a USC/UCLA town. Remember Inglewood where the pols were going to build a stadium for the Raiders so they could leave the Los Angeles Coliseum. Al managed to convince the city government to put up a non-refundable $10 million guarantee that he collected when the city could not build the stadium.
Now Las Vegas is ponying up $750 million in public funds for a stadium that is anticipated to cost around $2 billion.
Certainly, there are plenty of moving parts that need to be nailed down in Vegas, but the momentum is on Davis’ side. A year ago, the NFL owners allowed the Rams to move from St. Louis to Los Angeles and gave the San Diego Chargers the option to join them there. The Raiders’ relocation request went nowhere.
The team plans to play in Oakland for the next two years and reporting this week indicates that the team’s contract to continue to play here is sound. Coliseum authority executive Scott McKibben said in reports this week that the authority would lose money on the Raiders games over the next two seasons.
It’s sad because politicians over the last few years in Oakland (particularly Mayors Ron Dellums and Jean Quan) could have worked with the supervisors to put together a suitable deal. It would have been hard, complicated by the A’s, but possible.
Now, despite an amazingly loyal fan base here (whether they will transfer to Vegas is a very open question), I think Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff has it right when she said she’s moving on.
What will be very interesting, given the quality of the Raider team with Jack Del Rio at the helm and plenty of talent, is how many people show up for games over the next two years. Winning does soften hearts, but to be betrayed for a second time may be too much.
Personally, as a former sports writer who covered the Raiders in the John Madden era, I never got over Al’s first move.