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.