Finally, we are at the end game for the Oakland Raiders – a billionaires’ vote. Game to 24.
The Raiders filed the paperwork to move to Las Vegas Thursday, which was utterly no surprise to anyone. The City of Oakland pretended to be hurt but hopeful, which was no surprise. The NFL sat stolid and grumpy, which is its standard pose when it comes to the Raiders specifically and California in general.
In other words, the kabuki is done, and now we wait to see the sausage getting made. Or at the very least, watching it ground.
All the reporting and conjecture of the past few weeks is that Mark Davis has convinced the three-quarters majority that he has done more than enough to quell any concerns about Vegas’ smaller market or its stadium financing. The problem with that is, a lot of the same people thought that Davis and Dean Spanos would have been sharing the Los Angeles market by now, having been approved to move as a tandem last January.
That was 373 days ago, and as you all know, a lot has happened since then. The Rams moved from St. Louis instead, had a season so repellent that Los Angeles went from the league’s crown jewel to a serious problem area. The Chargers lost a stadium vote in San Diego by a lot more than Spanos hoped, and he went to L.A. to double the size of the hot mess. The Raiders turned a defeat into a new deal that first did include Las Vegas kingpin Sheldon Adelson and now may not include him. They even got $750 million in state money to help build their idealized new stadium, which is currently listed at $1.9 billion but may in fact end up costing significantly less.
Now there is only the matter of votes.
Jerry Jones (Dallas) has claimed to be in favor, and he was a chief whip in the Rams-to-L.A. deal. Bob McNair (Houston) is happy Davis isn’t again casting a phony eye towards San Antonio. Bob Kraft (New England) has been pro-Vegas through most of the hunt. Clarke Hunt (Kansas City) worried about competitive balance when the Raiders and Chargers were angling toward L.A. but seems less concerned now. And Jed York will have access to the Bay Area’s disposable income to himself.
The only apparent opponents could be Spanos and Stan Kroenke (Los Angeles), though Kroenke is pleased that the Raiders won’t be his co-tenants, Mike Bidwill (Arizona, for geographical reasons), John Mara (New York Giants) because of old-line gambling and market size jitters and maybe Paul Allen (Seattle) for . . . well, because he helped derail the Raiders a year ago and might have liked the way it felt.
But the NFL has been in Vegas for some time examining the territory, ever since it became clear that Oakland wasn’t going to play traditional civic ball (giving the local owner and the league everything it wants and then having the rest stolen from it). Mayor Libby Schaaf opted to agree with the Fortress group to handle the land and stadium issues, which sat very poorly with the NFL and made the option of keeping Davis in Oakland against his will even less palatable.
So what could derail the plan now? In descending order of likelihood:
* There could be eight of the remaining 31 owners (not counting Davis) who band together to vote en bloc against him, since he is not connected enough to fight back.
* There could be demands made of Davis in exchange for those votes that Davis finds too onerous (think divestiture, either at once or over time).
* Adelson could play nasty again, although now that most people believe that Davis can do the deal without him, that is less worrisome a scenario.
* The economy could crater (hey, laugh at your peril).
* The state could decide to renege on its contribution for fiscal reasons (politics are funny that way).
In short, today’s announcement was a sheer formality that makes the Las Vegas Raiders seem like a fait accompli, but the votes people think are in place are not actually in place until they’ve been cast.
And nobody knows that better than Mark Davis. He still has the muddy year-old prints from his “colleagues’” boots imprinted on his right buttock from the Carson vote.