When it came to the NFL, for many years the city of Los Angeles was always a bridesmaid but never a bride. Whenever an NFL team wanted their city to chip in public money for a new stadium, the team would always threaten to move to L.A. Two teams finally made good on those threats when St. Louis and San Diego told the Rams and Chargers respectively, to take a hike. L.A. went from being a the biggest major market without a football team, to having two teams in less than a year. At one time, the Raiders themselves were in an agreement with the Chargers to share a stadium in L.A. with their AFC West rivals.
Now with the second largest media market out of reach, where could the Raiders threaten to go to try to get a new stadium out of Oak Town’s coffers? With Los Angeles being at capacity Las Vegas became the next logical market to court. While not as large a market as Los Angeles, or even Baltimore, Las Vegas does attract many travelers from across the country to its glitzy attractions.
The problem here is that it seems more than likely that the Raiders had no intention of staying in Oakland. Former Raiders and 49ers Hall of Fame player Ronnie Lott headed a business consortium that not only would have created a smaller but more modern and lucrative stadium, but the City of Oakland itself agreed to the deal and had promised to kick in a share of the cost. It would have been a new stadium with luxury suites and plenty of space for concessions which the aging Oakland Coliseum is said to have lacked. It also would have kept the stadium in the same relative area as the Coliseum. However, Raiders owner Mark Davis, and his haircut, had been visiting Las Vegas for the past year, entering into talks with various businessmen including local billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Even when Adelson pulled out of helping the Raiders financially in their move to Vegas, Davis went full speed ahead with the move anyway. while it’s not the Colts moving out of Baltimore in the middle of the night, it’s still an egregious show of disrespect to the Raider faithful. To make matters worse, Davis has sent out e-mails to Raiders ticket holders to make their deposits now for their games in Vegas. That’s a 9 hour drive at over 500 miles, which basically shows that the Raiders don’t want the lunch pail fans, but more of the wine and cheese crowd which goes against everything the Raiders have stood for in the past.
Therein lies the problem with the modern NFL, it hasn’t been about the fans for years now. It’s all about the owners and their greed. The NFL owners voted almost unanimously to approve the Raiders’ move to Vegas. The lone holdout was Miami Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross, who used private money to renovate the Dolphins’ stadium. With the exception of stadium stalwarts like Lambeau Field in Green Bay or Soldier Field in Chicago, stadiums have become largely disposable. Stadiums that had been previously thought of as hallowed grounds like Three Rivers in Pittsburgh and Texas Stadium in Dallas have all fallen to the proverbial wrecking ball, however, in those cases at least the teams stayed in their markets. Who’s to say that with the current climate among NFL owners we wouldn’t one day see the Portland Steelers or the San Antonio Cowboys? In a few years the new sign of urban, and in some cases suburban, blight will be the carcasses of old sports stadiums littered across the country. While the Raiders may have not been the first to eschew their fans in pursuit of the almighty dollar, they’re certainly a huge part of a much larger problem that one day just may price the NFL out of existence.