(Photos courtesy of Oakland Raiders)
By Ron Borges
Talk of Fame Network
The most important thing that the Oakland Raiders, or any NFL franchise, need to win consistently is not a franchise quarterback or a genius coach.
What they all need are club seats, and the Raiders are threatening to move to Las Vegas to find them.
Club seats are the lifeblood of NFL teams because they are part of a pool of revenue they don’t have to share with their competitors ... if one considers the 32 NFL organizations competitors.
Teams compete fiercely on the field, but otherwise they share the bulk of their revenue, operate under a salary cap that keeps their overhead fixed and similar, negotiate most revenue-producing contracts as a group and don’t poach each other’s territory.
In other words, they’re socialists.
The one place where they’re still capitalists, however, is in areas of unshared revenue like naming rights and club-seat revenue, two areas where the Raiders lag far behind the league’s top-grossing teams like the Patriots, Redskins, Texans, Cowboys and Packers.
That is why moving to Vegas is not an idle threat. It’s a strong possibility for the club-seat starved Raiders if the Chargers can’t get funding to build their own new club-seat palace in downtown San Diego and opt, instead, to move to Los Angeles and become tenants of the Rams.
If the Chargers stay in San Diego, then the Raiders have a year to cut a deal with Rams’ owner Stan Kronke to join his team in L.A. But Vegas’ interest in building a state-of-the art stadium to house an NFL franchise is no joke, and if Raiders’ owner Mark Davis decides to make that move the NFL may find he’s no joke.
Davis’ father went down this road 25 years ago, moving the Raiders to Los Angeles despite the league’s disapproval. He took them to court and won. If his son takes that route to Vegas what his fellow owners think about it isn’t likely to matter despite Giants’ owner John Mara saying this week's annual NFL owners meetings that “a move to Las Vegas would be seen as a non-starter for most owners.’’
Mara cited the presence of casinos as a large part of their objection. Good luck making that argument in a courtroom. These are the same owners who couldn’t get in bed fast enough with fantasy-football gambling sites, Draft Kings and FanDuel, and not merely by accepting their ad money.
Patriots’ owner Bob Kraft and Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones became investors in those sites, which are now pilloried by state legislatures around the country for running illegal gambling operations.
So, Mr. Mara, some lawyer would trumpet, NFL owners can accept gambling money from companies violating gambling laws, but the nearly homeless Raiders cannot accept club seats from a city whose only industry is legal gambling? Good luck making that argument hold up in court.
Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is treading cautiously on this matter, saying this week only that “Mark Davis is appropriately looking at all of his alternatives. I think their ultimate decision is a long way off. There are several cities that have a tremendous interest in the Raiders. I’m hopeful also that Oakland will be one of those, and that we can avoid any relocation to start with.
“Those are ultimately decisions about where they go, and the impact that the potential gambling (might have) we’d have to deal with. We’d have to understand it. We’d have to understand what the impact is on us, and ultimately each owner would have a vote on that.
“Relocations are always … subject to 32 teams’ view about it. That would be a factor I think many owners would have to balance.’’
Truth be told, as the L.A. Expansion Committee found out, the only factor they’ll balance is how much money such a move might generate, and how much would they lose in a protracted court battle. In other words, the 32 NFL Socialists would go to the counting house, and, eventually, the Raiders would go to Vegas.
Frankly, could there be a more fitting match of town and team? That’s especially true if you think of other alternatives like the St. Louis Raiders? Not. Or the San Antonio Raiders? Not. Or how about the Berlin Raiders? Double not.
Double knots are also what Davis may tie his fellow owners into if he opts for Vegas. They’ve already prevented him from moving to L.A., given him scant help solving his unsolvable stadium problem in Oakland. Now they’ll block a Vegas move because gambling is legal there? Not!
The NFL already conceded there is no prohibition under league rules against a team moving to “any particular city.’’ They also reminded owners there was no need to comment further on it. John Mara did. Mark Davis’ comment was to meet with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.
What do you think they talked about? The buffet at Caesars Palace or a club-seat filled palace for the Raiders?