Oakland Raiders/Las Vegas Raiders Update

At the conclusion of the 2002 season, the Oakland Raiders lost the Super Bowl to the Tampa Bay Bucs.  For the next 13 seasons – through 2015 – the Raiders have enjoyed little success.

  • There have been no winning seasons since 2002.
  • Only twice (2010 and 2011) did they have a .500 record.
  • In 10 of those 13 seasons, they have had double-digit losses.

The 2016 Raiders are 7-2 and they lead the AFC West Division by half a game over the Chiefs and by a full game over the Broncos.  We are only in early November and the Raiders are guaranteed to have a winning record on the road for the season; they are currently undefeated on the road with a 5-0 record.  And so, the first conclusion one might draw is that things are looking up for the fans in Oakland – particularly the ones who inhabit the Black Hole on Sundays.

Maybe so – and maybe not…

If you are a Raiders’ fan with nothing but nostalgic ties to the city of Oakland, you are thrilled with the on-field results to date.  If, however, you are a Raiders’ fan who lives in Oakland or who has some fundamental feelings about the OAKLAND Raiders, you may be feeling apprehensive about the team leaving town.  A move to Las Vegas has been going through the traditional kabuki theater that precedes such franchise moves:

  • Protracted negotiations with Oakland indicate no new stadium there.
  • A plan to move to LA thwarted by other NFL owners.
  • Negotiations with the city-fathers of Las Vegas.
  • State money approved by the Nevada legislature and signed by the Governor.

And then, recently, the caravan leading the Raiders to Las Vegas hit a speed bump…  Part of the financing for the new stadium in Las Vegas would come via $650M thrown into the pot by Sheldon Adelson – CEO of Las Vegas Sands, a hotel/casino company.  According to financial estimates by people who purport to know about such things, Mr. Adelson’s net worth is close by the neighborhood of $29B.  This $650M commitment is a little more than 2% of his net worth.

Nevertheless, one would have to believe in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy – and maybe in some sort of interspecies liaison between those two fantastical creatures – to expect that Mr. Adelson’s $650M is a gratis contribution to the movement of the team.  Obviously, he wants a part of the Raiders for himself in exchange for his backing and his cash.  And in recent reports, it would seem that Mr. Adelson is not satisfied with whatever Mark Davis is offering him.  In one report, Adelson supposedly responded to a Davis proposal with a take-it-or-leave-it offer of his own.

I am skeptical about that report because that is hardly a way to get to a negotiated settlement but the fact that such a report is out there means that Adelson is not fully on board yet.  For Oakland fans who tie the team to Oakland, that could be a good thing because without Adelson’s ante into the pot, there is not enough money to build the sort of stadium that has been touted all through this process.  Moreover, I suspect that Mr. Adelson is shrewd enough to recognize that his inexorable ties to gambling casinos will get in the way of NFL owners’ approval of a move until the owners have time to acclimate themselves to having any ties to casino owners at all.

I would not be surprised at all to learn that Mr. Adelson really wants to own the Las Vegas Raiders at some point nor would I be surprised to learn that Mark Davis does not want that to happen.  What this deal needs is “a broker” or a “diplomatic interlocutor” to keep the parties from painting themselves into separate corners.  Moreover, that “broker” needs to be someone who can “chat up” a bunch of the NFL owners to make them positively disposed to the deal.  That person is:


Jerry Jones


The Cowboys’ owner has expressed his support for this move and for the benefit that the Raiders would bring to the NFL in this new facility.  He is a mover and shaker in the NFL owners’ community and he has the credibility and the capability to be the guy that both Adelson and Davis can turn to for advice and counsel here.  It has not happened yet, but I would not be shocked at all to hear that it is ongoing sometime very soon.

There is another NFL owners’ component to all of this and that involves the relocation fee that the league will assess to the Raiders just for the privilege of pulling up stakes and heading somewhere else.  When the Rams moved to LA last year, the fee was $550M; Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke could comfortably write a check for that.  According to reports, Mark Davis does not have that kind of liquidity meaning he would need to pay the fee out over time.  In addition, there might be an owner or two who could view this vote as a way to settle some sort of old score with Mark Davis’ father, Al Davis.  Obviously, I have no inside information here, but it is not a huge stretch of my imagination to think that some NFL owners might be venal and petty individuals.

Meanwhile, a private group in Oakland is trying to pull together enough money to buy the Oakland Coliseum so as to build a new stadium on that site and keep the Raiders in Oakland.  That group does not have a Sheldon Adelson on board so let’s just say that they have a rather significant Kickstarter campaign on their hands.

There are lots of moving pieces here; the momentum is clearly in the direction of a move to Las Vegas but there is not yet a document spelling out the terms of the deal to which anyone can affix one’s signature.  However, Mark Davis says he will begin the formal NFL process to relocate in January 2017.  That means there are about 8-12 weeks for folks to tie up all these loose ends into a pretty package.

Happy Holidays, everyone…

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha-World Herald had this slant on the Las Vegas Raiders:

“There may soon be an NFL team called the Las Vegas Raiders. This is sort of like when Sodom annexed Gomorrah.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

2 thoughts on “Oakland Raiders/Las Vegas Raiders Update”

  1. Any owner who underestimates the stain that can be caused by the addition of Sheldon Adelson to the ownership ranks in the NFL deserves whatever fallout comes as a result. He is not an unknown, nor is he a man who likes to remain anonymous or subject to the decisions of other people. Mark Davis may be OK with that risk because he has substantial risk in the status quo. I wonder if the Bowlen family or Arthur Blank is OK with it.

    1. Doug:

      You have laid out the issues that could make the NFL owners’ vote to permit the franchise move a difficult one. It takes 24 “Yes” votes to pass such a vote (75% of the 32 owners/ownership consortia). You can count on the Raiders voting “Yes”. Now, where are the other 23 votes?

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