ALAMEDA – Air quality around the Bay Area hasn’t been good.
Smoke and particulates emanating from the wildfires raging through Napa and Sonoma Counties has created what the Enviornmental Protection Agency considers “unhealthy’ conditions in several parts of the region south of the fire sites.
While these air-quality issues don’t in any way compare to fires affecting residents in the North Bay – at least 29 people have died, with hundreds more missing -- they could impact Sunday afternoon’s football game between the Raiders and Chargers at Oakland Coliseum.
The game game remains set to play as scheduled. For now, at least.
“We continue to monitor air quality conditions in the Bay Area and are in close communication with both the NFL and Chargers, as well as local authorities,” the Raiders said in a statement. “At this point, the game remains scheduled for Sunday in Oakland.”
The NFL echoed that sentiment earlier in the day, though they are exploring alternate sites.
The Raiders don't want to change the date or the site. They'd prefer to stay put, especially considering they've already lost a home game to Mexico City. They play the New England Patriots there in Week 9.
Enviornmental factors, however, may force the Raiders hand.
They have a few options, none of them ideal.
The 49ers are on the road this week, leaving Levi’s Stadium open as an alternative. A league source NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco that the NFL has reached out about the prospect of using the Santa Clara venue That would avoid travel stresses accompanied by leaving the market. The problem: that stadium is 33 miles south of Oakland Coliseum, and the air quality there hasn’t been much better than near the Raiders home field.
The Los Angeles Rams are on the road, leaving L.A. Coliseum available as well. San Diego mayor Kevin Falcouner offered to host the game at the venue formerly known as Qualcomm Stadium. The NFL might want to avoid putting the Raiders in their old haunts – the played at the L.A. Coliseum from 1982-94 – or bring the Chargers back to a still-angry San Diego market they left a few months ago.
The Raiders and Chargers can’t swap home games, as the StubHub! Center’s primary tenant, the L.A. Galaxy soccer team, as a game set for Sunday.
Moving the game date to a Monday night in Oakland is also complicating, considering the Raiders host Kansas City the following Thursday night.
The Seattle Seahawks are on a bye, and the game could be moved to CenturyLink Field in a pinch.
The EPA considered Oakland and Alameda air quality “unhealthy” on Wednesday and Thursday, recommending even healthy adults limit heavy exertion. Playing football outdoors would fall into that category, and caused the Raiders to pare their practice schedule on the aforementioned dates.
Michael Crabtree, Jalen Richard and receiver Isaac Whitney wore surgical masks during Thursday’s practice to prevent inhaling contaminants. The situation is not ideal for sport, at least not right now.
It’s difficult to forecast air quality, given unpredictable wind changes and fire patterns. The Raiders and the league should have to make a decision Friday to allow the Raiders and Chargers to change/create travel plans and for site plans to be finalized.
There is precedent for moving an NFL game late. A 2003 Chargers-Dolphins game was moved to Monday might in Arizona just 24 hours before kickoff due to wildfires in the San Diego region. Tickets in Arizona were free, with donations directed toward fire relief, and refunds were given to those who bought tickets for the game as originally scheduled.