Oakland is a mean, raw, and nasty place, and it’s always had a mean, raw and nasty football team. The two have always gone together. But the NFL isn’t about fans, or history, or traditions anymore. It’s about money, and money, and money.
The Raiders are moving to Las Vegas, and the NFL owners have given their green, dollar-sign-embossed approval to the move. Shame on them all.
Owners of the NFL’s teams, meeting Monday at a Phoenix resort for the annual league meeting, voted 31-1 to ratify the Raiders’ proposed relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas in a move that once would have been practically unthinkable given the league’s longstanding public opposition to sports gambling.
Those 31 billionaires don’t care about fan base. There are far more fans in the San Francisco Bay area than in tiny Las Vegas (1.2 million to 600,000, respectively). Las Vegas is also the nation’s only legal sports-betting market, and is fueled almost entirely by tourists spending cash on gambling and liquor and shows.
Now they can spend it on football (but they won’t).
The issue was never about fans anyway. It was about fancy new stadiums and tax breaks and special financing for billionaires. I’ve had it with catering to the NFL’s robber barons and their extortionist tactics.
- Arlington, Texas spent an obscene amount of money building AT&T Stadium for the Cowboys, who didn’t need a new stadium. But the city has reaped a tax boon at the expense of travelers, and a usurious 5 percent car rental tax for every visitor.
- Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank (who owns Home Depot) arm-twisted $200 million of a projected $1.5 billion to build Mercedes-Benz Stadium, to replace the Georgia Dome. There was nothing wrong with the Georgia Dome, but the NFL has to keep up its image–and its skybox prices.
- The erstwhile San Diego Chargers have sold out their 2017 season in Stubhub Center, which seats less than half the 80,000-seat capacity of Qualcomm Stadium. So much for fan loyalty.
The whole reason the Raiders sought to move away from Oakland is because they couldn’t get a new stadium deal.
The owners’ approval of the move is contingent on the Raiders getting a lease agreement and a stadium developer in Las Vegas, according to a person familiar with the details of the resolution approved Monday. The franchise is to remain in Oakland while a $1.9 billion stadium for the Raiders and UNLV’s football team is under construction. But then the Raiders are headed to Vegas for the 2019 or 2020 season.
Every few years, NFL teams (with the exception of the Green Bay Packers, whose devotion to Lambeau Field will never wane), get the itch to build ever-more-extravagant stadiums with luxury levels, insanely-priced season tickets, and very little room for cash-strapped fans who simply want to tailgate, catch the game, and drive home.
If their owners would pay more attention to winning Super Bowls (like Robert Kraft, who paid 100 percent of the cost to construct Gillette Stadium in 2002) instead of wrenching deals for Shangri-La palaces devoted to the sport of money, maybe the fans would be better served.
Let the toughest, meanest, and nastiest Raiders play in sun-drenched Las Vegas, among the slot machines, bright neon, and fake city skylines. The new, money-worshipping, fake NFL will fit right in.