Oakland’s much-talked about lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders and the National Football League itself is set to be ready by December according to its lawyers.
But why is Oakland even planning legal action against its beloved team? There has been a ton of misinformation distributed about the environment that created the lawsuit, and what it’s going to be.
For all practical purposes this is a first-person account that spans 43 years. Over that time, I’ve viewed this City of Oakland / Oakland Raiders relationship from a number of stations:
1) Growing up in Oakland and having a famous Raiders player Otis Sistrunk as a family friend starting in 1975.
2) As an intern with and then consultant to the City of Oakland’s Office of Economic Development and Employment between 1987 and 1989.
3) As Economic Advisor to Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris from 1995 to 1999, and where I worked with Raiders Executive Assistant Al LoCasale on restarting the Raiders / 49ers Preseason Game and got a crash-course in NFL politics.
4) As founder and Executive Director of the Oakland-Alameda County Sports Commission and the Super Bowl XXXIX Bidding Committee from 1999 to 2001. Oakland emerged to battle Jacksonville and Miami for the right to host the 2005 Super Bowl; we lost on the third ballot.
5) As news blogger and vlogger starting in 2004, then CEO of Zennie62Media, covering the business of the NFL and the NFL Draft from 2005 to present.
6) As both formal and informal advisor to five mayors of Oakland: Elihu Harris, now California Governor Jerry Brown, the late Ron Dellums (where I also served on Dellums’ Sports and Entertainment Task Force), Jean Quan, and current Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Why Is The City of Oakland vs Oakland Raiders NFL Lawsuit Happening?
The lawsuit will not be for the team name, or take on the look of the City of Cleveland’s battle with the Cleveland Browns that ended with the team brand given to Cleveland, while Art Modell took off to Baltimore and created the Ravens.
No, this lawsuit will be for money.
The City of Oakland holds that the Oakland Raiders misled elected officials and did not tell them of plans to relocate. Rather, on two separate occasions, Oakland officials were made to believe the Raiders did want to build a new stadium at the Oakland Coliseum, but the City asserts that the truth is the Raiders had no intention of staying in Oakland at all: in the case of Carson, then Las Vegas.
This is a point I’ve made for some time, even asking NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his view on the matter at the 2016 NFL Spring League Meeting:
Now, recently, Mayor Schaaf has finally admitted to the rest of the press what I’ve said to her for some time: that the Raiders failed to act in good faith with the City of Oakland.
Did Mayor Schaaf Know Of The Oakland Raiders Carson Relocation Plan?
The first time the Raiders pulled the wool over Mayor Schaaf and the City of Oakland’s eye was in 2014-2015. As the then-new Mayor of Oakland Libby Schaaf took office, she made having a good relationship with Oakland Raiders Owner Mark Davis one of her first priorities, and toward the end of a new stadium for the NFL team. I know this because Mayor Schaaf called me specifically for advice on how to approach and work with Mr. Davis, and she did so two weeks after she won the 2014 Oakland Mayoral Election.
As 2015 unfolded, what was presented at first as a kind of “backup plan” to the Raiders effort to build a new stadium in Oakland, turned out to be a serious proposal to move to Carson, California and join the San Diego Chargers in a new stadium. Mayor Schaaf was completely unaware of the Raiders efforts and didn’t believe they were doing that.
I know because she said that to me on the evening of May 18th 2015 – a late Monday night conversation we had. The Mayor called because she wanted to know who Carmen Policy was; I’ve known Carmen going back to 1998, when he hired my Cal-Berkeley classmate Kofi Bonner to be the Cleveland Browns Chief Administrative Officer, and I’ve interviewed Policy on my show, so I was in some position to talk to her about what Carmen has done in NFL circles. She got word that he was working with the Raiders, but didn’t understand why.
During that talk, Libby swore to me that the Raiders were sincere and she was completely not willing to believe what I told her: that Carson was the Silver and Black’s target for relocation from Oakland. It was my talk with her that led to this series of questions I had during an impromptu press conference with Oakland Raiders Owner Mark Davis the next day.
After that spring league meeting it slowly became crystal clear to all in Oakland that they were involved in a horse race with Carson. That was because the City had an exclusive negotiating agreement with Floyd Kephart to work with the Raiders to build a new stadium.
The problem with Floyd Kephart, from the City of Oakland’s collective view at that point was that 1) Floyd was asking for $400 million in public dollars that Oakland was reluctant to give, and 2) he lacked the financial resources that Oakland city staff was under the impression he possessed to apply to the Coliseum City project.
On top of all that, Floyd rubbed NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman the wrong way, which didn’t help Oakland’s case, as Eric was ostensibly in charge of new stadium efforts for the league. Eric once described the tough-negotiating Kephart as a “bad penny” that wouldn’t go away; Floyd once said that his work with Oakland would go better if Eric stayed out of it.
Eventually, by the Fall of 2015, the City terminated its negotiating agreement with Kephart and entertained new potential partners. Meanwhile the NFL was deep into its period of getting the so-called “host-cities” to sing for their supper: to hold “town hall” meetings giving the fans to show how much they were, well, fans.
Raider Nation was un-matched. The 3,000 Oakland Raiders fans who packed The Fox Theater that October 30th night gave an emotional and unforgetable night of speeches, tears, and cheers that had a profound effect on NFL staff – even those league employees who didn’t attend the event later told me how they felt. To say it was moving was an understatement. It was a full on testament to Raider Nation: Oakland Raiders Nation.
Here’s Mayor Schaaf during the Oakland Raiders Town Hall Meeting:
Here’s Mr. Grubman at the press conference held after the Oakland Raiders Town Hall Meeting:
From Oakland’s point of view, 2015 held the promise of a new stadium in Oakland, at the Coliseum. The feeling among some was that Davis would not prevail in his bid to move the Raiders to Carson, even though all were annoyed over the realization they were in a horse race they were never informed about.
What City Oakland of Oakland and County of Alameda officials also did not know was that the Raiders had yet another city in mind and it wasn’t San Antonio, a city Mark Davis would use as relocation flirt material; it was Las Vegas.
ESPN The Magazine would later reveal that Mr. Davis had held a series of “secret” meetings with Las Vegas Sands officials, spearheaded by Raiders Legend Napoleon McCallum, who worked for the casino company, and as far back as 2014.
Stay tuned for Part Two.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media