Welcome to Las Vegas: NFL owners approve Raiders’ move from Oakland to Las Vegas
AP Pro Football Writer
Here’s a look at some of the major moves for one of the NFL’s most successful and yet vagabond teams.
THE START: Oakland was perhaps the unlikeliest city to get an American Football League franchise when the league began in 1960. But the fledgling enterprise needed a team to pair up with the Los Angeles Chargers, and Oakland was given the eighth slot originally pegged for Minneapolis. The Chargers only lasted a season in L.A. before bolting south for San Diego, but Oakland soon proved to be one of the anchor franchises of the AFL. Al Davis was named the coach and general manager in 1963 — back in the year when the Dallas Texans became the Chiefs and the New York Titans became the Jets — and Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum’s opening in 1966 helped stabilize a team that had used several stadiums. The Raiders would go on to win the AFL the following season but lose to Green Bay 33-14 in the second Super Bowl.
L.A. DREAMING: Despite winning two world championships in five years in Oakland, Davis, now the team’s owner, had his sights set on Los Angeles. Davis sued the NFL in federal court for the right to relocate to L.A. and won, and the team moved for the 1982 season. The Raiders moved into Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and gave the city a championship after the 1983 season.
BACK TO OAKLAND: By the mid-1990s, the Raiders were looking for a more modern facility. They found something akin to that back in Oakland, where officials pledged to renovate the team’s former home. The Raiders left Los Angeles after the 1994 season. The Rams also left for St. Louis. By 1996 the Oakland Coliseum, now complete with an additional 10,000-seat structure dubbed “Mount Davis,” had undergone a renovation designed to keep the Raiders in the Bay Area.
JUST MOVE AGAIN, BABY: Davis’ son Mark took over the team after his father’s death in 2011. By then the Oakland Coliseum was showing severe aging, and sharing the facility with the Athletics wasn’t helping matters. The Raiders and A’s are the only NFL-MLB franchises sharing a facility. Davis’ initial attention for relocation was Los Angeles again, and he partnered with the Chargers on a potential stadium project in Carson, California. When NFL owners voted in January 2016 to approve the Rams’ proposal to move from St. Louis and build a stadium in Inglewood, they also gave the Chargers an option to join the Rams there — leaving the Raiders out of the L.A. equation. The Chargers exercised that option in January and moved to L.A. after 56 years in San Diego, but Davis already had turned his sights to Las Vegas, which shed much of its “Sin City” reputation in the eyes of major pro sports leagues. The NHL approved an expansion club, the Vegas Golden Knights, in 2016.
MONDAY’S VOTE: The Raiders found their third city to call home in Las Vegas — and became the third NFL team in two years to announce a move. The Raiders will likely spend a few lame-duck seasons in Oakland while their new Las Vegas stadium gets built.
PHOENIX — Invoking his father Al’s name, and copying what the Hall of Fame owner did with the Raiders, Mark Davis is moving the franchise out of Oakland.
NFL owners approved the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas 31-1 at the league meetings Monday. Miami was the lone dissenter.
“My father used to say the greatness of the Raiders is in the future,” Davis said. “This gives us the ability to achieve that.”
The vote was a foregone conclusion after the league and Raiders were not satisfied with Oakland’s proposals for a new stadium, and Las Vegas stepped up with $750 million in public money. Bank of America also is giving Davis a $650 million loan, further helping to persuade owners to allow the third team relocation in just over a year.
The Rams moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles in 2016, and in January the Chargers relocated from San Diego to LA.
“You know our goal is to have 32 stable franchises for each team and the league,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We work very hard and never want to see the relocation of a franchise. We worked tirelessly over the last nine months or so on a solution. We needed to provide certainties and stability for the Raiders and the league.”
The Raiders, whose relocation fee of approximately $350 million is less than the $650 million the Rams and Chargers paid, likely will play two or three more years in the Bay Area before their $1.7 billion stadium near the Las Vegas Strip is ready.
“I wouldn’t use the term lame duck,” Davis insisted. “We’re still the Raiders and we represent Raider Nation.
“There will be disappointed fans and it’s important for me to talk to them to explain why and how.”
Las Vegas, long taboo to the NFL because of its legalized gambling, also is getting an NHL team this fall, the Golden Knights.
“Today will forever change the landscape of Las Vegas and UNLV football,” said Steve Sisolak, chairman of the Clark County Commission and a former member of a panel appointed by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to study the stadium tax funding plan. “I couldn’t be more excited for the fans and residents of Clark County as we move forward with the Raiders and the Rebels.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and a group trying to keep the team in Oakland, made a last-ditch presentation to the NFL last week. But that letter was “filled with uncertainty,” according to Goodell.
Monday, she asked owners to delay the vote, wanting to give her city a chance to negotiate with a small group of owners to complete a stadium deal at the Coliseum site.
“Never that we know of has the NFL voted to displace a team from its established market when there is a fully financed option before them with all the issues addressed,” Schaaf said in a statement. “I’d be remiss if I didn’t do everything in my power to make the case for Oakland up until the very end.”
Schaaf said the city presented a $1.3 billion plan for a stadium that would be ready by 2021.
Schaaf said the existing Coliseum would be demolished by 2024, with the Oakland Athletics baseball team either moving to a new stadium at the Coliseum site or somewhere else in the city.
But the presence of the A’s in that sports complex was particularly troubling to the NFL, Goodell said.
“We understand the Raiders’ need for a new stadium,” A’s President Dave Kaval said. “Oakland is an incredible sports town and we would be sorry to see them leave. We commend the city’s and county’s efforts to keep the Raiders in Oakland. The mayor and her team have worked incredibly hard to save the franchise.
“We are focused on, and excited about, our efforts to build a new ballpark in Oakland and look forward to announcing a location this year.”
The Raiders’ move became more certain this month when Bank of America offered the loan. That replaced the same amount the Raiders lost when the league balked at having casino owner Sheldon Adelson involved and he was dropped from the team’s plans.
Davis on Monday thanked Adelson for his “vision and leadership,” saying the entire deal might not have happened without him.
Leaving the Bay Area is not something new with the Raiders, who played in Los Angeles from 1982-94 before heading back to Oakland.
“We’re sick and tired of just being pawns,” said Rob Rivera, the president of the Black Hole fan club. “Putting up with 13 years of bad football, embarrassing football and we stayed loyal to this team. When they needed something to hang their hat on, it was us who was there. For the team now to turn the corner and look to skip town, it’s just devastating. For Mark Davis to look us in the eye and say he wanted to stay in Oakland, his heart is in Oakland, it’s a bunch of bull.”
Davis was passed over last year in an attempt to move to a stadium in the LA area that would have been jointly financed with the Chargers. Instead, the owners approved the Rams’ relocation and gave the Chargers an option to join them, which they exercised this winter.
Now, it’s off to the desert for the Raiders. Well, in a few years.
“The opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world,” Davis said, “is a significant step toward achieving that greatness.”