It’s uncertain if any Raiders fans still exist, mistreated as they’ve been by a political process that would melt away the sturdiest Black Hole armor. But for those who remain loyal, consider how the NFL’s franchise owners were briefed for today’s special meeting in suburban Chicago, aka “Operation: Let’s Make Even More Billions in Los Angeles.”
And realize how this information provides one more damning clue that the Raiders, once again, are about to move south in the most delirious succession of relocation U-turns in American sports history.
The Group of 32, including Raiders owner Mark Davis, received updates on current stadium situations involving the three franchises that have proposed moves to southern California. St. Louis has submitted a strategy that includes “significant public contributions” — specifically, $400 million toward a proposed $1 billion stadium, thanks to a local judge who waived a referendum — which suggests the Missouri city has made the most progress and is likeliest to retain an NFL team. The league says the San Diego effort also involves “significant public contributions,” but the Chargers say they want no part of a $1.1 billion home in Mission Valley (of which 32 percent will be funded publicly), rebuking the plan Monday and all but ending the city and county’s hopes of pushing the proposal to a January election.
As for Oakland?
“No specific proposal has been made to the Raiders or the League office,” came the official NFL lowdown.
That’s because there is no plan in Oakland — obviously because Oakland has no economic interest in keeping the Raiders. No public money is coming from the city or Alameda County, with plenty of politicians imploring the Raiders to stay but none showing the clout or persuasion to get anything done.
And without public money, there will be no viable stadium plan from so-called savior Floyd Kephart, a cardboard charlatan who only delayed the inevitable.
And without a viable stadium plan or a legitimate savior, Davis has nowhere to go but elsewhere. He can take his team to Carson, where the Raiders will be happy to piggyback the Chargers if they apply as expected to relocate for the 2016 season. Both teams are in a race to reach L.A. ahead of St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who still may ignore the local stadium momentum and shift his franchise to Inglewood, where he says he’s ready to build a cathedral with a transparent roof. In that event, perhaps Davis takes the Raiders to St. Louis, which is the most unimaginable oxymoron, Team Doom in the heartland.
Either way, unless some miracle investors decide to pony up $1 billion to keep the Raiders in the East Bay — which isn’t going to happen now if it hasn’t happened before this — today looks like the beginning of the end of the Silver and Black in these parts. Oh, they may continue to play occasionally in decrepit O.co Coliseum as a touring troupe — yes, this is what Raider Life has come to — that also could play multiple games in London and others in Dodger Stadium while waiting for their new home. They’d be second citizens in a gambit with the Chargers, who’d get first dibs on a temporary setup at L.A. Memorial Coliseum, which has said it would host only one NFL franchise in such an arrangement, forcing the Raiders to become vagabonds. What else is new, right?
At some point, logic prevails in even the most scatterbrained exercise, which this L.A./NFL dance has been for eons. The Raiders are free to leave their O.co Coliseum lease after this season. Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners want at least one team in L.A., and they’d like the process to begin now. And these men tend to get what they want, especially when two teams already based in California wish to leave abysmal homes for a new revenue-churning palace in America’s second-largest market. The Chargers don’t need to be in San Diego, goes the thinking, when they still can attract fans from that city and throughout SoCal as a regional franchise. The Raiders, with an L.A. past, can retain their former fans and cultivate new ones with a rebooted image centered around a streamlined, pass-happy team. The NFL only wants one stadium in L.A., and if St. Louis comes through, the league will urge Kroenke to stay put. If he pulls an Al Davis and bucks the league, well, Goodell simply will summon special investigator Ted Wells and make everything right, like Ray Donovan.
So, call the moving vans, Raiders.
Not to open ancient, scab-crusted wounds, but what they’re facing in their Oakland drama is the political version of the 1972 Immaculate Reception. They can cry foul, try to rally support and offer up all the circumstantial evidence they’d prefer, but in the end, they’re going to lose the game. It’s obvious now that Oakland and Alameda County can’t keep them — and aren’t trying too hard, either. They made Davis wait months while Kephart, from San Diego, pieced together a financial proposal to keep the team in a new stadium on the current Coliseum site. Turns out Kephart’s plan was b.s., with his $4.2 billion proposal requiring an element that won’t be accepted by the city or county — public money! — and a provision that never would fly with Davis even if he’s one of the NFL’s lesser-heeled owners. Kephart wants Davis to sell him 20 percent of the team at what the developer estimates as a $200 million chunk. No matter how much you’re vomit-bag-sick of this story, that is a horrible deal for the Raiders.
And if it represents Oakland’s final offer, well, you can hear Al Davis calling his son from the heavens in his black Members Only jacket: “Get your ass to L.A., now!”
What blows me away is how so few people seem to care if the Raiders leave. In a region dominated and defined by the 49ers, they are a niche outfit. Many locals are simply disgusted and weary after so much public money was spent to appease Al Davis in the mid-’90s, when he demanded the hideous Coliseum renovation for his return from L.A. The Black Hole theme is stale, too, and not really how you want to define your franchise in the 21st century. Isn’t the Darth Raider thing more a byproduct of playing in a dilapidated park in an industrial part of town — and not how to develop the corporate sponsorships so vital to a high-class, big-revenue organization? The Raiders can do that in L.A.
I believe Mark Davis when he says he’d prefer to stay. And I believe him when he says a move to Levi’s Stadium isn’t viable, not when the 49ers would control revenue streams and ambience, compared to a 50-50 split with the Chargers in Carson. “I know if that [move] happens, it won’t be what they want. It’s going to be what they have to do,” said Hall of Famer and former Raiders receiver Tim Brown, now a team broadcaster. “From that standpoint, I don’t know how cool that is.”
It’s not about what’s cool. It’s about following the money.