The NFL is finally set to cast its vote on allowing Mark Davis to move the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, and at least one prominent observer is predicting it will pass:
On the eve of the NFL’s annual spring meeting in Phoenix, commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio that the voting outcome on the Oakland Raiders‘ proposed move to Las Vegas will be “positive.”
“I think we will have a vote, and I think we will have a positive vote. I think we are in pretty good shape,” Goodell said.
Goodell’s job is to do the bidding of the 32 NFL owners, so unless he’s reading the room very poorly, he probably knows of what he speaks. Which means the NFL will soon see its third franchise relocation in the two years since St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke first laid plans to move to Los Angeles and jump-started the whole relocation merry-go-round. And also that the NFL is more excited about a public body writing Davis a $750 million check than worried about how Davis will repay the $650 million he’ll have to borrow, which it probably should be, given that there’s no way anyone else was going to offer the Raiders that much stadium cash, and playing in a relatively small Las Vegas market doesn’t matter too much so long as those national TV checks keep rolling in.
There is still every sign that the Las Vegas Raiders could be a disaster, given not just that $650 million debt load but the, shall we say, uncertainty around whether a team will be able to sell season tickets when its main customer base is expected to be fans of visiting teams who’d like to combine a trip to a road game with some gambling and hearing old guys play music. But they’ve pretty much been a disaster in Oakland, too, so I can certainly see 24 NFL owners saying, “Fine, Mark stumbled into a $750 million check, let him go ahead and try to make it work.”
As for what this means for the league as a whole: L.A. is now full up as a market, and Oakland and San Diego are both close enough to existing NFL cities — Santa Clara and Los Angeles, respectively — and disinterested enough in throwing money at new stadiums that’s it’s unlikely anyone will use them as a move threat anytime soon. Which means the next time an NFL team owner wants to saber-rattle in order to shake loose public funds, he’s going to need to resort to … St. Louis? San Antonio? London? I guess if Las Vegas is an acceptable target, there’s no reason Austin or Birmingham or Portland (either one) isn’t, so this doesn’t really hurt team owners’ leverage much. And it adds to the viability of the threat that teams could move anywhere, anytime, so don’t push us, or we’ll go ahead and do it, believe you me!
Pro football really is the worst of all sports for many, many reasons, and needs to meet a quick and unceremonious demise. Youth football participation seems to have reversed its precipitous decline, but where there’s the fear of death, there’s hope.