It was the Schaumberg, Illinois NFL Special Owners Meeting on what was said to be the evaluation of plans to build new stadiums in what the National Football League called the “home markets” of San Diego, Oakland, and St. Louis.
The meeting, held at the Hyatt Regency in Schaumburg, Ill., was a busy one, to say the least. It featured the return of the legendary San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns team executive Carmen Policy to the NFL. Carmen laid the ground-work for the never-built Niners Stadium at Candlestick Point, and later hired my Cal Berkeley Department of City And Regional Planning classmate Kofi Bonner to head the New Cleveland Browns as its Chief Administrative Officer in 1998.
Carmen (who’s son Ed Policy is the Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel for the Green Bay Packers) was hired by the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers to be the new head of their effort to build a new stadium in Carson, California.
Carmen gave this impromptu press conference in the hotel hallway:
He was up against billionaire Stan Kronke, who had planned his Inglewood entertainment and sports complex for seven years. The degree to which Kronke’s effort had eclipsed the Raiders and Chargers work to that date became evident at that meeting. It was also more that clear to Oakland Raiders fans and Oakland officials that what was originally presented as a “just in case we don’t get a stadium in Oakland” architectural drawing, was really the opening act in an effort to relocate the Raiders out of Oakland, and to Carson or to what was later discovered to be Mark Davis backup plan city, Las Vegas.
It was also the meeting where I finished my initial work in developing an Oakland Coliseum City Stadium Plan to retain the Raiders in Oakland, and at the specific request of Raiders Owner Mark Davis at the NFL Spring League Meeting in San Francisco in 2015.
Prior to that point of the Schaumberg meeting, I’d made a financial spreadsheet plan that contained a way to finance the construction of a new Raiders staidium at the Oakland Coliseum, and without using public money, contacted and had a conference call meeting with representatives of Piper Jaffray Investment Bankers, who blessed my plan (and wanted to be what Fortress Investments in San Francisco became as the financial member of Ronnie Lott’s team), and met with Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan and Oakland Coliseum Joint Powers Authority Executive Director Scott McKibben, who said I “crossed every ‘I’ and dotted every ‘T’.
So, when I saw Davis at the Schaumberg meeting, my first words to him were “Mr. Davis, I have $2 billion for you,” and referring to the free and clear profit the Raiders would gain from my plan over a 40 year period. (And before you scoff at those numbers, just take the Raiders average annual team net operating income of about $20 million since 2001, and multiply that times 40 years – you get just $800 million; my haul for the Raiders was more than double that, and from a new source: their own staidium. Anyone who says I’ve not done the Raiders a favor is completely full of you know what, but I digress.)
At any rate, Mark Davis acted like he was afraid to talk to me. In a normal world, anyone who did that kind of work for free and for a team who’s financial future was in question, would be celebrated – but in the Raiders world, I was and am hated. So be it. My work stands as done well, and the right people know it. Now, if I said the reason I was treated that way was was because I was a smart, Berkeley and Texas-Arlington-trained bald black guy from Skyline High School in Oakland, and who wasn’t a former Raiders player, the Raiders would have a baby, but what the hell do I know?
There’s some reason I was never granted a meeting by Davis, and it was beyond the basic notion that the Raiders didn’t want to stay in Oakland. They could have met with me and then decided on their own to use elements of my plan in Las Vegas. But, again, I was seldom accorded that kind of respect by Mark Davis (as much as the Raiders brass has always been nice to me) and that’s sad and true fact.
But I digress.
At the press conference to close the Schaumberg NFL meeting, Eric Grubman, then the point person for the new stadium / relocation effort, blasted Oakland for not submitting a “viable” stadium plan. The word “viable” went viral, thanks to social media, and stuck to Oakland like mud, and then hardened for every day the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda failed to provide a real, doable, and buildable stadium plan.
What this moment in time should have been was an opportunity for Oakland to show it had the will and the initiative to complete big projects, but Oakland was slow to rise to the occasion and that played right into the hands of the eager-to-move Mark Davis, as much as Roger Goodell tried to resist him and give Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf a chance to catch up. The true backstory is that Commissioner Goodell personally enjoys talking with Mayor Schaaf, and was quite willing to help her then, and still is today.
Where an Oakland lawsuit would play is such that it could produce a positive outcome for Oakland, by forcing the NFL to the table to discuss the future, and deal with a nasty past. One that has seen Oakland Raiders fans treated horribly twice in two generations.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media