Oakland to file antitrust suit against Raiders move, team threatens to take ball and go … somewhere

If you thought the only excitement left in the Oakland Raiders‘ move to Las Vegas was where all the fans would park at the new stadium — or whether anybody will turn up to games there at all — there’s a surprise for you back in Oakland:

The Oakland City Council has authorized a multimillion-dollar antitrust lawsuit against the NFL and the Raiders over the team’s impending move to Las Vegas — legal action that Coliseum officials said could result in the team leaving Oakland at the end of the upcoming season.

Let’s start with the lawsuit: It’s apparently set to be filed by the city, but was prompted by Raiders fans, and would actually be litigated by outside law firms that will take a cut of the winnings, if there are any. It would be an antitrust suit, seeking as much as $500 million in damages, according to Oakland councilmember Noel Gallo — and yes, you’re not misremembering things, the last antitrust case involving the Raiders ended with the Supreme Court ruling that the team owner had a right to move them wherever he wanted, but presumably these lawyers have come up with a new argument. (Here’s a long essay in the East Bay Express that totally fails to explain what that new argument would be.)

The truly great part here, at least for a disinterested observer mostly rooting for chaotic hilarity, is that Raiders execs have reportedly told the operators of the Oakland Coliseum that they won’t renew their lease for next year if the lawsuit proceeds, which is the absolute best threat ever, since the only reason they’re still in Oakland in the first place is that they have absolutely nowhere else to go. They could play at UNLV’s 47-year-old Sam Boyd Stadium in Vegas, but team owner Mark Davis has said he doesn’t want to do that. Or they could play in some other temporary home city with an existing stadium — San Diego? St. Louis? San Antonio? — and hope that enough curiosity seekers will come out to see games to make it worth their while.

It’s probably an idle threat — there’s plenty of time before next season for everybody to come to some agreement, or for the lawsuit to crash and burn — and given that the city and county would only lose a relatively piddly $3.7 million in rent from the Raiders if they left early, and that fans seem to be behind the lawsuit even if it might cost them a final lame-duck season, it’s not all that much of a risk for the public. And — say it all with me — watching this court case has got to be more entertaining than watching Raiders games.


27 comments on “Oakland to file antitrust suit against Raiders move, team threatens to take ball and go … somewhere

    • “Pottsville, PA”

      This is a genius idea. I’ll go one step beyond and say there should be at least one NFL game played every year in Pottsville, with the “home” team required to wear retro Pottsville Maroons jerseys.

    • If anyone cares for a bit of a deeper analysis on the ‘where they play topic”

      https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/09/05/if-not-in-oakland-where-would-raiders-play-next-season/

      I can’t see on what grounds the city would win, but I would love to see them either extract more rent or see the raiders pick up and leave and have to settle for something sub-otimal out of the area or grovel to the Niners.

    • St. Louis is busy with some legal issues involving Mr. Ann Walton, Mr. Jerry Jones, and the rest of the NFL, so St. Louis might take a pass:

      https://www.stltoday.com/sports/football/professional/rams-football-games-are-long-gone-from-st-louis-but/article_af55e70b-7938-5ce9-bba6-1d405d94dcf5.html

      • OOOOO. Thanks Russ. This may ultimately amount to tilting at windmills on the part of the Stl interests, but your link made my day.

        I can honestly say there’s nothing I like better than reading about people suing the NFL.

  1. “at least for a disinterested observer mostly rooting for chaotic hilarity”

    Almost nailed the description of my attitude. Although, could argue that I’m interested in seeing the Raiders fail and flail around ineptly because I resent the hell out of the fact that they pollute my local Sunday airwaves, overriding what are otherwise nationally televised network games.

  2. It could be that this lawsuit is based on little but ‘spite’. But it thrills me that they appear to be serious about filing it.

    If the city really felt this way, however, why did they sign extensions with the Raiders? Why not simply allow the lease to run out, and send Davis a letter 30 days prior to expiry indicating that Oakland will not renew or extend the present lease (and to be sure and take all his useless crap with him when he goes)?

    I guess I understand them signing on to a ‘third party’ funded suit, but I don’t really see what they hope to gain by doing so that they couldn’t have made happen all by themselves a year or two ago.

    As for the Raiders, how are ticket sales going in Oakland? I can’t imagine renewals have been brisk…

    Also: www.raiders.com/lasvegas/live-stadium-camera

    This is really going to be ready for NFL football 12 months from now? Really?

    • The Raiders are playing out the final of two single-year lease options on the 3-year lease they signed before the 2014 season. The Raiders *were* negotiating for another single-year lease with the JPA (the joint city/county agency that owns the Coliseum & Arena).

      Not having the Raiders play in 2020 would cost the JPA about $4-5M in lease payments … but would *gain* the JPA all the money currently lost each year in $0.25M+ baseball/football field changeovers (about 7 or 8). The financial loss isn’t big at all.

      Also, Alameda County is negotiating with the City of Oakland to sell off their interest in the JPA/Coliseum, but the city has said they don’t have the money to buy them out. In other news, the A’s have offered to buy the whole site, paying off all the existing debt on the Coliseum and Arena to take over ownership.

    • Maybe Neil can clarify, but I thought there wasn’t an agreement to play anywhere in 2019. The Raiders assume it will be in Oakland, but the lease expires after this season.

    • Why would they? They spent years rejecting the idea of sharing with the Niners despite the stadium being explicitly constructed to house 2 home teams. And then they went on to consistently shut down the idea of sharing it even temporarily.

      • Honestly, if it comes to the point where the Raiders can’t play at the coliseum and their new digs aren’t ready, they’d be fools not to play a single season at Sam Boyd.

        Sure, it’s not ideal… and they’d have to work with the league on scheduling mainly road games for the first month/6wks of the season, but it is their new home city. Going anywhere else as a temporary measure would be ludicrous… even Santa Clara.

        If LV residents aren’t keen on buying tickets to see “their” new team outside at Sam Boyd, Davis could add a sweetener in the form of priority seating in the new stadium to anyone who buys a season ticket for their one year at Sam Boyd.

        See? I CAN TOO get through a whole post without mentioning Davis’ haircut…. . oh dammit dammit dammit I just did…

  3. I wonder why the city of Oakland has not included the eminent domain legal claim of keeping the “Raiders” name with the city as Cleveland and Houston asked for with the Browns and Oilers respectively in their lawsuits they initially filed two decades ago.

    I would enjoy hearing results from the Las Vegas Card Sharks, Blackjacks, One-Armed Bandits, or Roulette Rogues …. but Grackles, Crows, Vultures, Sapsuckers, Flickers, and Roadrunners would be acceptable ….

    • An interesting idea.

      As I recall, the city of Cleveland came to an agreement with the league that the colours, name and “history” would be maintained separate from the Ravens franchise in expectation that someone would a) build a new $700m stadium and b) pay several hundred million dollars for a replacement franchise. This outcome was not the direct result of any lawsuit, but the result of a negotiation.

      I can’t recall exactly what happened with the Oilers, but it was the Tennessee Oilers that took the field for the first couple of seasons in Memphis (to very small crowds, as I recall).

      In the case of the Browns, since the league likely had little interest in one of it’s most historic franchises name and colours ending up in a new city, they were only too happy to oblige the folks from Cleveland. In doing so, of course, they increased the likelihood that someone would actually do both A & B above at literally no cost to themselves… Arguably, this was a financial boon to the new Baltimore franchise as well, as no merchandise could be transferred from former Browns fans choosing to support the new team (not that there were all that many I would think).

      In effect, the city was begging the league to promise to consider accepting their donation later on. Who says no to a thing like that?

      I like the suggested names…. Too bad CSI is no longer on, Bruckheimer could do a tie in and have them called the Las Vegas “DB”s

      • The Oilers became the Titans before the 1998 season, the third season of their three year odyssey to whatever their current stadium is called this week (after the lame-duck ’96 season in Houston in front of no fans, and the ’97 season in Memphis in front of no fans, which caused them to play at 41,000 seat Vanderbilt Stadium in ’98). According to the Titans, the name change was due to fan requests.

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