In the iconic 1999 drama Any Given Sunday, Miami Sharks team owner Christina Pagniacci (played by Cameron Diaz) attempted to move her franchise from Florida to Los Angeles with the promise of riches heading into the 21st Century. The fictional team was based in large part on a mixture of two real life clubs in the Dolphins and Oakland Raiders, playing in the famous black and silver that created an aura of intimidation.
That motion picture featured Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown and New York Giants Super Bowl-winning linebacker Lawrence Taylor, portraying a game rife with dubious medical practices, greedy players accustomed to off field controversy and ownership talks where the dollar always dictated at the expense of the supporter. Although the movie is 17 years old and counting, it is a case of art imitating life as the events appear to parallel with modern day NFL.
As the Rams took the carrot of returning to California making LA their home once more, the bright lights of Las Vegas are tempting those in the corridors of power to shift a struggling outfit to Nevada permanently. As Bleacher Report explain, this is far from a hidden secret and the Oakland Raiders are viewed as the ideal candidate for such an experiment.
Owner Mark Davis gave a snide remark to say: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” bypassing any consideration for those that turn up each fortnight and don the facepaint screaming their lungs out – this is a football dictatorship, not a democracy. The one straw Raider Nation can grasp is a short-term reprieve, hoping against hope that events will turn out in their favour. “Right now we’re trying to get a one-year lease extension with the Oakland Coliseum,” explained Davis.
But those crumbs of comfort seem a distant memory as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave an unequivocal statement this week to say the franchise was packing up and heading East. CBS reported that the wealthy mover and shaker gave his opinions on a local radio station as the stars align to make the switch across states.
“Really if you look at the history of teams moving, this is pretty definitive. There’s a pretty bright line right there. They’ve provided for a team, the most funding that’s ever been funded from third parties,” said Jones. “So that’s about as strong, L.A. never really had that powerful of influence, I’ll put it that way. Which is over $700 million of initial contribution from the state of Nevada and the city of Las Vegas. That’s pretty strong.”
With a pecking order established among the 32 franchise owners, Jones is credited as much as anyone for getting the Rams out of St. Louis and ensuring they call LA home. He used his time on air to plug the positives. “Vegas has a lot going for it. I think it’s going to really have, a real, if you will, strong case to get an NFL football team,” argued the 74-year old billionaire. “I know that Oakland, certainly, was approved to move earlier this year.”
What should an owner of another team have anything to do with the Oakland Raiders and the NFL? After all – it is their future, their fans, their team and the thoughts of an ageing businessman external from the organisation should have no impact on what happens with a potential relocation. In an ideal world that would be the case, but unfortunately this is American Football and those that wield influence behind the scenes do so at will.
One aspect that must be addressed for those fighting the tide and flying the Oakland flag is the condition and state of their home turf, the Oakland Alameda Coliseum. The 63,000 capacity multi-purpose venue accommodates both the Raiders and the Oakland Athletics in Major League Baseball, proving an uncomfortable one-size-fits-all aesthetic not up to 21st Century standards.
To make matters worse, the San Francisco Chronicle report that debts remain unpaid for the previous “upgrade” on the facilities some two decades previous, leaving a sizeable portion of the $180 million investment outstanding courtesy of the California tax payer. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is doing everything in her power to prevent Las Vegas from orchestrating a $750 million splurge to buy the team from the area and it will be people like her that ultimately decide the outcome.
“We are bringing what we have to the table to keep the Raiders,” explained the Mayor. Although the stakeholders behind the proposed upgrade have been kept under wraps, Schaaf is buoyant of keeping Raider Nation local. “This is a strong, verifiable group that not only has the wherewithal, but the knowledge and experience to pull this off … They have the relationships, trust and confidences necessary with all the right people — including the NFL and local officials.”
The rumours won’t stop, talks will continue, blueprints will be drawn up and all the Oakland fans can do is cross their fingers, turn up in their tens of thousands and voice their support from the grandstands. The trend appears to be pointing one way as money almost always wins out, but there could be enough obstacles to keep the team put at least in the interim.
What do you think Raider Nation? Should they wave farewell to Oakland and re-establish themselves in Nevada or does heritage and history still mean something?