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OAKLAND, Calif. — The town is taking the Raiders and NFL to court.
On Tuesday, City Attorney Barbara Parker said she will file a federal antitrust lawsuit against the team and the league, a suit city leaders hope could net millions in damages and pay off the approximately $80 million in debt remaining from renovations at the Coliseum.
It may also send the on-again, off-again Oakland Raiders packing early for Las Vegas.
Parker said the NFL violated antitrust laws by approving the move to Vegas and the team's departure goes against the league's relocation policy.
"The defendants brazenly violated federal antitrust law and the league's own policies when they boycotted Oakland as a host city," Parker said in a statement. "The Raiders' illegal move lines the pockets of NFL owners and sticks Oakland, its residents, taxpayers and dedicated fans with the bill. The purpose of this lawsuit is to hold the defendants accountable and help to compensate Oakland for the damages the defendants' unlawful actions have caused and will cause to the people of Oakland."
Oakland City Council had earlier voted to authorize Parker to file the suit, along with outside law firms. Two fan groups, We Stand with Oakland and Forever Oakland, led by Raymond Bobbitt and Gregory "Griz" Jones, first called for legal action.
The outside law firms include Berg & Androphy and Pearson, Simon & Warshaw, LLP.
"The NFL has a long history of misusing its tremendous market power in violation of antitrust laws," Quinn, the lead attorney from Berg & Androphy said in a statement. "This time the NFL defendants violated their own bylaws in their effort to cash in on the Raiders' move. Oakland is standing up to this unlawful and disloyal treatment by the league owners."
Quinn has had success in other suits against the NFL and in a case earlier this year, a judge in Missouri ruled in favor of St. Louis officials suing the Rams for relocating to Los Angeles.
But legal victories in antitrust cases against the NFL are rare. Stadium expert Roger Noll, professor of economics emeritus at Stanford University, earlier said the only successful antitrust suit by a city against the league was LA Coliseum vs. NFL, which included the Raiders.
"Many cities have sued to try to block a team from moving, and none have succeeded," Noll said in September. "Of course, the city (Oakland) may have an interesting, new theory of antitrust harm, so I want to read the complaint before I reach a conclusion about the merits."
The suit comes as the Coliseum authority is negotiating with the Raiders to extend the team's Coliseum lease for one year. The lease negotiations could include an option to play the 2020 season in Oakland in case the $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat Las Vegas stadium doesn't open on schedule.
Coliseum authority Executive Director Scott McKibben said the team "made it very clear" it would not sign a lease extension if a lawsuit is filed.
"The Raiders demand language that assures them the city will not file a lawsuit against them," McKibben said Tuesday.
Team officials have not commented since word of a potential lawsuit first leaked out in September. Team owner Mark Davis, too, has not returned messages.
The outside law firms have taken the case on a contingency basis, meaning it comes at not cost to the city, though critics have worried about the possibility that Oakland would not be covered if the Raiders filed a counter suit.
It's unclear where the team would play in 2019, if not at the Coliseum. Noll said there are no attractive options in the Bay Area or Las Vegas. Seating capacity at college stadiums are smaller than the Coliseum, he said.
"In this case, the Raiders would be sacrificing a lot not to stay in the Coliseum, so the issue is how much it is worth to them to retaliate against the city on their way out of town," Noll said. "As a business proposition, moving next year makes no sense."
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