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Raiders Will Face Awkward Interim Years Before Move

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USA TODAY

 

Mark Davis insists he has no fear.

Shortly after NFL owners formally approved another franchise relocation Monday -- the third in 14 months -- sending Davis' Oakland Raiders to Sin City, he was reminded about the backlash brewing back home.

On top of intense debate over whether fans will pay to see a team with one foot out the door, Davis' home address has been plastered all over the Internet. It makes me wonder whether he needs to beef up his personal security.

"No concern," the Raiders owner told USA TODAY Sports as he hustled to the next meeting. "That's part of life."

Davis pretty much had to make this move in one sense, given the landscape for the business of the NFL and the frustrating but fruitless years of trying to strike a deal to remain in Oakland. Davis expects that in the coming days he will publicly detail his reasons for the move to the die-hards in Oakland.

Good luck with that.

Regardless of how he explains it, it will be tough to convince some fans in the Bay Area that he could not have held out longer. They are hot, bothered and angry, the latest group of jilted fans whose team is moving away for greener (as in money) pastures.

Ronnie Lott, the Hall of Famer who is part of an investment group that fell short in striking a stay-at-home deal, told USA TODAY Sports last week: "It's going to get ugly. In San Diego, they were upset to lose the Chargers. People in Oakland will be mad."

Yet the Raiders, whose $1.9 billion domed stadium in Las Vegas isn't projected to be ready until 2020, will be staying in Oakland a little longer. The team has annual leases that extend through the 2018 season, and Davis said getting another for 2019 is also possible.

What a long, lame-duck window that surely some might view as a slap in the face to Oakland. Just move, baby? Not so fast.

"If fans would like us to stay there, we'd love to be there for that," Davis said in reference to the upcoming seasons. "I'd like to bring a championship back to Oakland."

Like a farewell gift? This will be so awkward, and just when the Raiders have been rebuilt into a viable Super Bowl contender after more than a decade of futility.

Consider how the Chargers responded after deciding to join the Rams as the second team in Los Angeles. They will play for two years at a temporary home at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., rather than remain in San Diego while their stadium is built. Apparently, owner Dean Spanos realized it would have only increased the strain -- and probably drained ticket sales, too -- to stay.

The Rams, likewise, knew it wasn't an option to stay in St. Louis after striking their L.A. deal.

What makes the Raiders different? As one NFL owner told me Monday: "It can work for them where it wouldn't work for others. The Raiders have such a unique fan base."

They undoubtedly are one of the NFL's most passionate national draws. I'd put the Raiders in a group with the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers when it comes to taking over a visiting stadium. The term "Raider Nation" comes with much substance.

One reason the franchise will succeed in Las Vegas, as Davis has suggested, is because of its proximity to California, where Raiders fans are ubiquitous.

"A lot of people we know are down with the move," said Raul Jaramillo, a Los Angeles native residing in Phoenix, who was among a small group of Raiders fans who showed up at the swanky resort where NFL owners are meeting this week.

"It's closer for us."

Jaramillo was living in L.A. when the Raiders moved back to Oakland in 1995, so he understands the bitterness and anger. He said he wouldn't wear the "Las Vegas Raiders" T-shirt he sported Monday in Oakland because it would be a slap in the face to fans there.

However, we're going to see just how loyal the Oakland base of Raider Nation will be. In the meantime, the Raiders have the weirdness looming of at least two more years in Oaktown -- possibly three if they don't spend 2019 in San Diego, sharing the 49ers stadium in Santa Clara or going to Vegas early.

As Jamarillo put it, "It's like divorcing your wife and she lives with you for two years while dating someone else."

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March 28, 2017
 
 
 

 

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