Welcome to another edition of In Defense Of,where we take a look at something in the world of sports that’s been perceived as questionable,unpopular,or misunderstood. We then take the case for that particular thing.
From their inception in 1960 to 1982,the Raiders called Oakland the Bay Area home and then owner Al Davis decided to take his team to Los Angeles where they remained until 1994 when they returned to Oakland and where they’ve been ever since. When Davis passed away in 2011,his son Mark became the owner of the team. Like his father had tried to do for many years, Mark Davis is trying to find his team a suitable home and thinks he’s found it in a city not named Oakland or Los Angeles, it’s Las Vegas.
A lot of fans are wondering why Davis wants to move his team to not just another city but also another state. Why would he want to leave a pretty loyal fan base in Oakland (and California for that matter as you have fans of the Raiders scattered throughout the state as they’ve called both Northern and Southern Californiia home at times in their history) and go to a place where they’ve never had legitimate professional football? (And no,the XFL doesn’t count,sorry fans of He Hate Me)
The real question that should be asked is “Why Not?” as I’m going to defend Mark Davis for wanting to take his team from the Golden State to the Silver State.
Reason #1: Relocation is part of the Raiders’ DNA
This is just another cog in the history of this team and it started before they even played a down in the AFL in 1960. The Raiders were originally going to be Minneapolis’ AFL team,but the owners decided to accept a bid in the NFL instead. The league was scrambling to find an eighth and final team and Oakland was selected at the insistance of Los Angeles Chargers owner Barron Hilton. Hilton threatened to forfeit his franchise unless a second West Coast team was in the league, thus the Oakland Raiders were born.
The team played in Oakland until 1982 when Al Davis decided to move his team down Highway 101 to Los Angeles after being unable to get improvements made at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum,specifically luxury boxes. Although the move was initially blocked by his fellow owners, Davis sued in court to move his team down south and won. The Raiders played 13 seasons at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and in that time the team won Super Bowl XVIII,the team’s last championship to date. The Raiders won Super Bowl XI and Super Bowl XV while calling Oakland home the first time around.
In the mid-1980s,Davis began seeking a new stadium for his team away from the shady neighborhood the L.A. Coliseum was in,which caused the league to schedule many of the Raiders’ Monday Night Football appearances on the road. It never happened and the Raiders stayed at the L.A. Coliseum until deciding to move back to Oakland and the Oakland Coliseum in 1995.
Once the Raiders moved back,the Coliseum underwent renovations to accomodate the team,a seating section known as Mount Davis was built. However,with the Coliseum becoming aged and outdated,the need for a new home is a big one. Talks with Oakland for a new home have been stalled and after the 2015 season the Raiders filed relocation papers to Los Angeles,as did the Rams and the Chargers. The league voted in 2016 to have the Rams move to Los Angeles with the Chargers having the option to join them by 2017,leaving the Raiders looking for a new home.
Besides Las Vegas,the Raiders have also looked at San Antonio as well as the former Naval Weapons Station in Concord.
Moving is part of this team’s DNA, they’ve done it twice,and they’ll more than likely do it a third time.
Reason #2: Uncharted territory
Let’s face it,Las Vegas has virtually no experience being a major league sports town. They do have an expansion NHL franchise coming in the 2017-18 season,but outside of that they’ve had a couple of non-NFL franchises like the XFL’s Outlaws and were part of the CFL’s America experiment with the Las Vegas Posse,but none of North America’s four major sports leagues have called Sin City home.
Mark Davis knows that Las Vegas is a possible gold mine ready to be tapped and his Raiders have long had a brand recognized not just league-wide,but also worldwide. That no matter where his club ends up that fans will be there to cheer on the Silver & Black. That Las Vegas looks to be able to offer what Oakland can’t,a brand-new state-of-the-art stadium that his team can call home. It also gives the city an identity it’s never had before,a professional sports town.
Reason #3: The league’s pass on their L.A. bid
Honestly,if the league hadn’t passed on their bid to go in with the Chargers on a stadium in Carson, we wouldn’t even be talking about Las Vegas.
In 2015,the Raiders announced that they would partner with the San Diego Chargers to build a $1.75 billion privately-financed stadium in nearby Carson,Calif. if both teams were approved to relocate by the NFL. While the Chargers were given the green light to move if they chose to,the Raiders were not. However,the Raiders do still have an option to join up with the Rams in their new facility by 2019 if the Chargers pass on relocation by next year.
I don’t see Davis staying in Oakland for very much longer if he can get a deal with Las Vegas done anytime soon. Sure,he probably still has visions of bringing back the Los Angeles Raiders, but is sharing a stadium with the Rams a good idea when they can have an entire state to themselves? At this moment, the Las Vegas idea seems to be the best option in Davis’ view and he seems enamored with going there if he can’t get what he wants from either Oakland or Los Angeles.
Reason #4:The fading Oakland sports scene
The future of professional sports in Oakland is in absolute peril. Despite winning a championship in the 2014-15 season and coming close to repeating the feat this season,the Golden State Warriors have plans to move into an arena,the Chase Center,at Third and South Streets in San Francisco,by 2019.
The A’s have been trying to get a new stadium of their own and possible sites have not exactly included Oakland. In 2006,owner Lew Wolff pitched his Ballpark Village idea to city officials in Fremont,Calif.,located 26 miles south of Oakland. Cisco Field would’ve seated 32,000 people and would’ve also brought commercial and residential developments to the site. By 2009,the Fremont idea was scrapped. Cisco Field was also proposed in San Jose near the SAP Center,home of the San Jose Sharks. However,territorial rights to the South Bay held by the Giants as well as U.S. Supreme Court rejected the A’s bid for San Jose in 2015. The A’s are still trying to find a viable solution for a new stadium,whether it’s in Oakland or elsewhere.
With the Warriors leaving and the A’s possibly leaving Oakland, it looks as though the sports scene in Oakland is becoming a thing of the past and if it isn’t good enough for the former two teams,why would it be viable for the Raiders? If I’m Mark Davis and I’m looking around seeing the other two teams in town scrambling for a new city to call home,I’m probably looking,too,because the city of Oakland obviously isn’t doing enough to try and keep these teams where they are.
In case you forgot,with the exception of the Green Bay Packers,sports teams do not belongs to fans,they belong to the rich men and women who either purchased them or inherited them or are the de facto head of the team because a large conglomerate owns the team. Mark Davis is the middle one because he inherited the team upon his father’s death in 2011. You may think that he owes the fans in Oakland something,but he really doesn’t. You may think that way as a fan of any sports team that you’ve shown a lot of loyalty to,but in the end the team belongs to Davis and he can have the play anywhere he wishes to call home and do business.
It would be great to have the Raiders stay in Oakland,no team really wants to leave a city unless they’ve run out of options to try and stay. But the fact of the matter is that it’s becoming harder for them to try and get something done in Oakland anytime soon and the older the Coliseum gets,the less likely the team is staying there. When a city like Las Vegas seems to be willing to work with Davis,all of a sudden that team’s options are limitless because there are cities with little or no sports teams who see a team that may be on the move and hope to land them and with Las Vegas and with the Raiders,it’s looking like it’s a matter of not if,but when.
Thanks for joining us for another edition of In Defense Of, maybe we changed your mind, maybe we didn’t,but I hope we did justice for all parties involved!
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