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The Plight Of The Oakland Raiders: A Failure To Communicate By Mark Hollis

Last month’s announcement that the Oakland Raiders were in fact moving to Las Vegas created a mixture of emotions filled with sadness for the community and heightened anticipation for the team. Owner Mark Davis’s decision to relocate the Raiders to “Sin City” put an end to the possibility that former Raider, Ronnie Lott, and his group of investors would be able to secure the funding to retain the team in Oakland. What is disheartening is the impact the move will have on the community. So, who’s the blame for this latest fiasco?

Oakland Mayor, Libby Schaaf, indicated that she and the City Council had exhausted all efforts to retain the team in the city. She also stated that they offered 55 acres to the team to build a new stadium. The wrench that was thrown into the works was that the mayor was adamant that no public funding would be made available in the form of a tax initiative to subsidize the building of the new stadium. Monies of that sort would be better utilized combating issues of poverty in the community and off-setting a possible budget deficit. Oakland, being one of the most diverse cities in the nation, has experienced a growth in its population over the years due to an increase in its migrant communities. Compound that with the added increase of homelessness, Libby’s position is hard argue against. The fiscal impact on the city of Oakland with the Raiders departure will hurt the economy with a drop in tourism dollars. Many of the fans drive or fly in from as far as Southern California and the Vegas area for the game day weekend.

Mark Davis’s position on the move is that there were mandatory stadium solutions needed to keep the Raiders in Oakland. The Coliseum is without question the worst venue in the National Football League. With antiquated locker room facilities, plumbing and sewage problems, as well as on the field issues, have long given the stadium a bad rap. His opinion, like many other NFL owners, is if you want your team to stay in its locality, meet the team half way and come up with the needed funds. Especially, if the team in question is one of the true dynasty’s in the league. There is also the issue of luxury boxes which are major register rings for NFL team ownerships and should be brought into the conversation. League ownerships share monetarily on everything from television pool monies to dollars generated from the sale of every bit of merchandise. Luxury boxes are non-shared items, and in this case, Mark Davis as an owner would benefit greatly from the sale of boxes to corporate clients. Is it possible the stadium in Las Vegas offers more boxes than what was being offered in Oakland?

On a personal note, I was born and raised in Oakland and am well acquainted with the Raider story. I witnessed the progression of a team that in 1960 appeared to be little more than a semi-pro football team. In those days, the team practiced at a neighborhood park named Raimondi Field on Wood Street and would play their games at Memorial or Kezar Stadiums in the Bay Area. In 1963 the era of Al Davis was born. He redesigned the franchise from the new uniforms to the building of the team’s first stadium named after local sports activist Frank Youell. In 1966, the Raiders moved into the Oakland Coliseum and the rest is history. Al ensured that players on the team were very active in the community in order to strengthen the link between the team and the public. The swagger image of the Raiders brought a new attitude to the town, long thought of as the “other city” after San Francisco. The City Across the Bay was sophisticated, while Oakland exuded its blue-collar image. Kids emulated the “Silver and Black” while the adults took pride in the tough persona of the Raiders. The image of the fans in the “Black Hole” was born out of this Raider history—a tough team in a tough town.

I would have loved to see the Raiders stay in Oakland. But as much as the city and the team go together, the lure of Las Vegas cannot be denied for Mark Davis. Could Libby Schaaf and the city have done more? Absolutely. But the fiscal concerns of the city are equally important if not more so. Unfortunately, it all boils down to money and that in itself is disappointing. Compromise is defined as “an agreement or settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions”. I am curious as to who dropped the ball on this one. Al Davis famously stated, “Just win baby”. Clearly there are no winners here.