As I sat there at the Biltmore, in Phoenix, listening to Roger Goodell let the NFL world know that the Oakland Raiders were given the green light to relocate, I wondered how it got this far?
It was bitter-sweet news to me as a son of Oakland, “this is really happening”, I thought. But it did not have to end this way. Oakland was dealt the winning hand, time and time again during this process.
However, they folded that winning hand every time. If that seems strange to you, you’re not the only one. Lets look at all the advantages Oakland had going into this.
Oakland was the home team in this for the Raiders
Oakland had the home field advantage from the start. The NFL requires a long list of things to happen before a team can even apply for relocation, the team and the city have to reach an impasse and the NFL league office has to be brought in and also reach an impasse. The community and local business support has to be lacking. At any time during this process, if the local government presents a viable and actionable plan, it halts the entire relocation process.
It takes years to get through all the bureaucratic tape in California to actually break ground on a large stadium. However, Oakland already cleared many of those hurdles by certifying an Environmental Impact Report on the Coliseum land. Now, the project still would have to have had FAA approval, but it was a forgone conclusion that would not have been an issue. Because of that, it was not “Shovel Ready,” but it was as close as it could be.
Oakland had the market
Oakland is roughly in the center of the Bay Area. The Bay Area market, if you include San Jose, is the third largest in the United States and 17th in the world GDP wise. Not only that, but it is number one for GDP growth in America. Also, there is a huge concentration of Fortune 500 companies and Silicon Valley is in another golden age of economic growth. On the surface, this should have been a financial slam dunk.
The ugly reality in Oakland
Was Oakland the home team? Yes. Did they act like they wanted to keep the Raiders? No. Time and again, Mark Davis and the NFL laid out what they needed from Oakland to build a new stadium there. These plans fell on the deaf ears of local politicians. It’s like being dealt pocket aces in poker only to fold preflop. Oakland continued to fold the best hands and finally went all in on Seven – Deuce. Even then, they hedged by not actually putting up an actionable plan.
Oakland had the land
All Oakland had to do was offer a viable and actionable plan on the 120+ acres. The Raiders and the NFL were not asking for the A’s to be permanently removed from the Coliseum land. In fact, Mark Davis tried to get the A’s to commit to a plan as late as February of last year. Mark also was not asking the A’s to do anything the Raiders were not willing to do. Under the Raiders plan, both the A’s and Raiders would have played at a different, but local, location while both venues were being built. This seems to be lost on those local politicians suggesting the NFL was forcing them to choose between the A’s and Raiders. This is just not true!
And lets talk about the A’s for a min. Numerous times, Mark Davis and the Raiders reached out to Lew Wolff to work a deal on the land. Each and every time the Raiders were told no. Including last February!
Now about this market size, it really does not matter how booming the market is if you cannot get a place to build a stadium on. Due to territorial boundaries, the Raiders could only build east of the Bay Bridge. I can tell you the Raiders studied numerous sites in the East Bay, but none of the were financially viable. Only the coliseum site would have worked, and only if the Raiders gain control of 120+ acres on that site.
Raiders aren’t to blame for this
Instead of offering that land, local politicians chose to play politics. Their strategy was to hope the Mark failed in his efforts to move, instead of offering a competitive and viable offer. The mayor was so far out of touch, that she actually demanded the NFL Owners put off a vote. In the end the leadership in Oakland showed its true colors when the relocation vote came out 31-1. That was a crushing statement from the NFL Owners and what they thought of Oakland’s plan. Oakland leaders then lost their professionalism in their response to that, suggesting they lock Mark out. Even in the end, Oakland leaders forgot what this was all about.
There are the ultimate losers in all this, and the Oakland Leaders obviously showed they had no sympathy for them, the fans.