Raiders rescind rent offer to Oakland, explore options for 2019
OAKLAND — The Raiders on Wednesday ended talks to play in Oakland for the 2019-2020 season, a day after the city of Oakland filed a federal lawsuit against the team and the NFL.
Pulling a proposed deal off the table, the NFL team made good on its promise to withdraw its offer to play next season at the Coliseum if a suit was filed, even though it does not yet have a back-up plan.
It’s unclear if the move was a negotiation tactic or if a game later this month is actually the last home game in Oakland.
Raiders CEO Marc Badain told reporters at the NFL owners meetings in Dallas gave no indication where the franchise will play its games.
“We do not have an an answer on where we’re going to play next year,” Badain said. “We have a number of options, and when we have an answer we’ll share it with you.”
Raiders owner Mark Davis, asked by reporters about Oakland as well as other potential destinations such as San Diego, Santa Clara, San Antonio and Nevada, said “all options are open” although he expressed doubt about the possibility of playing on artificial surface at San Antonio’s Alamodome. Besides Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, there are few attractive options in the Bay Area.
Regarding returning to Oakland, Davis said, “Emotionally, I don’t want to pay for my own lawsuit, but for the fans, it’s something I’ve got to think about.”
With that as a backdrop, it’s conceivable the Raiders’ Christmas Eve game against the Denver Broncos could be their last game at the Coliseum if they seek a temporary home in 2019 with their $1.9 billion Las Vegas stadium scheduled to open in 2020.
Badain on Wednesday informed Coliseum authority Executive Director Scott McKibben negotiations were over in a short message, McKibben said. “It said this is just to inform you that the lease proposal we had negotiated is now off the table, thanks for your effort,” McKibben said. “That was it. It was a very brief sentence or two.”
McKibben did not rule out returning to negotiations if the Raiders do not find another option and Davis decides Oakland is his best bet, lawsuit or not. Davis “may do that, I don’t know, it’s hard to say,” McKibben said.
Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters the league would need to know by “early January, February” where the Raiders were going to play in 2019 for scheduling purposes.
Negotiations began earlier this year and McKibben had expected to ink a deal months ago. Because the city had threatened a lawsuit, and the Raiders proposal specifically said it would back out if a suit was filed, talks slowed to a crawl.
Under the scrapped deal, the Raiders rent would have more than doubled. In 2019, the team would pay $7.5 million in rent and more if they stayed in 2020. Currently rent is $3.5 million and $925,000 in 2015, one of the sweeter deals in professional sports, Councilman Larry Reid noted.
“We’ve been losing money with the Raiders playing at that facility,” Reid said Wednesday. “It troubles me,” that Davis said “he really wanted to play this last year in the city of Oakland. The Raider Nation has wanted you to play every game in the Coliseum moving forward, in a brand new stadium.”
Reid’s East Oakland council district is losing the Golden State Warriors to San Francisco, the Oakland A’s possibly to Howard Terminal, and now the Raiders are packing up early.
Justin Berton, a spokesman for Mayor Libby Schaaf, said “if he wants to leave Oakland now, that’s his choice.”
“If he keeps the Raiders here, the mayor’s happy our local diehard fans will enjoy a final season,” Berton said.
Oakland’s federal antitrust lawsuit accused the NFL and its 31 owners of profiting off “relocation fees” that pit cities against one another and the team of violating league policies over moving a franchise.
In an interview with Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com, Davis called the suit “meritless and malicious” and said, “My feeling is we’re 3-10 and we’re still relevant. It’s a legal issue and I’ll let the attorneys make further comment.”
With the NFL announcing Tuesday the Raiders would play one “home” game in either London or Mexico City, the team could be on the lookout for a nine-game (two preseason games, seven regular season games) stopover home site which would likely include remaining in their Alameda practice facility during the week.
Coach Jon Gruden, not surprisingly, wants to keep things as normal as possible next season but stressed he was focusing on Sunday’s road game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“It’s always something every day here, isn’t it?,” Gruden said. “I want to play in Oakland and I’m real sensitive like you would expect. It’s where I want to play. Let’s see what happens.”
Asked about the logistics of practicing in Alameda and possibly having what amounts to an entire season on the road, Gruden said, “I can’t even think about that. I don’t like to sit around and speculate. We’ve tried to get ready for the Bengals. I’m not the right guy to (answer) those questions. We’ve got enough issues to try and figure out ourselves.”
Quarterback Derek Carr described the situation as like being in college and moving on to the NFL.
“You don’t know where you’re going to be,” Carr said. “The good thing is you have experience, you know what team you’re going to be on. You know who your coach is going to be. You know the system. Where you’re going to play your home games, that’s just weird.
“It’s nothing no one wants to go through but there’s no book on how to do this. I’ll figure it out the best I can day by day.”
Of the Coliseum atmosphere, Carr said, “I’ve spent five years playing in that stadium. We have people talking trash about it and whatever they want, but I love it. It’s ours. It’s been fun. The fact that it could be the last one is crazy.”