Editor's Note: The above video is from Nov. 6, 2016.
As we consider with the distance and clarity of the new day the latest developments from the City of Oakland in the attempt to attract the Raiders to stay where they are, we are reminded of one very important thing.
The Raiders STILL aren’t a part of these talks. Haven’t been, don’t want to be, and unless put in a bind won’t consider it.
In other words, what we have here is a deal between a city and a developer to buy land and build something FOR NO INTERESTED TENANT. Why this has escaped most people is an amazement, but there we are.
So I am now willing to predict a third potential outcome for this slow-motion train to nowhere: The league kicks the can down the road, putting off making a decision on the fate of the Raiders until one of these deals gets sweetened to its liking.
Now, back to the hilarious present.
The only intriguing thing about this new term sheet between the City of Oakland (throw-weight, $200 million) and the Ronnie Lott-fronted Fortress group (throw-weight: $175 million for the land as a starter) is that it exists at all.
But it isn’t a deal that seems to be attracting much notice from the NFL, the Raiders, or really anyone else. It is Empty Gesture Theatre, and frankly, it probably shouldn’t be anything more than that. Cities have been screwed into near-bankruptcy pandering to sports teams for decades, and both Oakland and Nevada deserve better -- though people don't often recognize what they deserve.
Now let’s reiterate the problems here:
The Raiders desperately want to leave. Mark Davis believes his best chance at future glory is in Nevada, and nobody has been able to shift him off that position, even though he has apparently been told as recently as two weeks ago that he does not yet have the 24 votes from his fellow owners at present.
Oakland has neither the money nor the political will to make a proposal that will dazzle the Raiders into staying. Mayor Libby Schaaf has committed the city to $200 million in infrastructure costs and no more, and part of the time-honored stadium soak is that a city throws in a lot more money, either through bond issues, tax increases, free land or a deal with the concrete guy. That cities shouldn’t even be in this business has dawned on Schaaf, and she really wants out of this deal is a regular tenant who will see to it that the taxes are paid in regular installments.
The NFL is frustrated that Oakland isn’t playing the city’s traditional role as a sucker. It doesn’t much like the Fortress people, either, which is still slightly more benign than its view of Las Vegas Casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who is still a linchpin of the Vegas deal even though he threatens to leave.
In short, Oakland provided no particular reason to have the owners look more kindly upon it, at a time when they want a reason to reject Vegas on market-size grounds. It is in many ways the Carson-v.-Inglewood fight of 11 months ago, in which the league’s owners had to decide on the site they liked (Inglewood and Rams owner Stan Kroenke) against the guy they liked (San Diego Changers owner Dean Spanos).
They voted the money, as you knew they would. The Rams are building in Inglewood, and apparently will joined, albeit with great reluctance, by the Chargers, who were rejected with great vigor by the voting citizens of San Diego last month.
Now in this scenario, the Vegas deal is the one with the short-term money but the long-term danger signs, while the Oakland deal has the market size but not the money or the will. And in the Oakland deal, the league doesn’t have direct leverage over Davis to modify his level of franchise control, which it very much wants to happen sooner rather than later.
So the other 31 owners can either accept one deal they don't like, another deal they don’t like, or give it another year in hopes that some deus ex machina will appear and make the decision for them. Typically the NFL at its most powerful had the outcome cemented ahead of time and just acted, but this is not the NFL of 20 years ago. It has been reactive throughout, letting events come to it, in exchange for which it now has two unappealing options with which to deal.
So I would expect the NFL to consider its options and delay a decision yet again. It wants neither Adelson, Fortress, the Oakland plan or the Vegas market, so it is most likely, barring some radical change in the current equation, to wait for a more clement time to strong-arm its desired conclusion upon everyone.
In the true spirit of NFL Christmas: Ho ho ho, and hands up, suckers.