Happy 4th of July 2018, and I say another “Happy 4th of July 2018” to Oakland Raiders Owner Mark Davis, who’s father Al Davis would have turned 89 years old, today.
Almost every time I do my Zennie62 on YouTuhe Livestream Show (Sunday – Thursday 9 PM PST), a viewers asks this question: “Would Al Davis have supported his son Mark Davis relocating The Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas.”
My stock answer to that question has been “Well, Mark’s his son, and I’m pretty sure Al would have given him his support, but he would have said ‘Son, we won in Oakland.’” But the real answer is I have no idea what Al would have really said to Mark. Moreover, to assume I know better than Mark Davis himself is flattering but an insult to Mark.
There are those who say that Al Davis would have loved to move the Raiders to Las Vegas, but then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle would not have went for it because of gambling. I’m not sure I buy into that, because if Mr. Davis, Al really believed Las Vegas was better economically for the Silver and Black, he would have made the same bold, in-your-face move he executed in ripping the team out of Oakland, and trucking down to Los Angeles.
At the time, Las Vegas was simply too small to even think of hosting an NFL team, and even Al Davis woulds have laughed at the idea. Moreover, the kind of technical controls over gambling and monitoring of games and transactions that exist today, were completely unheard of back then. And we also can’t forget one perception that would full-stop-halt the idea of the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas when Rozelle was NFL Commissioner: the Mob.
Organized Crime ran Las Vegas back then, so any talk of the Raiders to Las Vegas would have come, or should have come, and still should come, with questions about money laundering. Indeed, the grip of crime bosses using gambling as both amplifier and filter for their cash is part of American history. There’s no logical reason to think any one trying to push the Raiders toward Las Vegas then might also have some ties to the mob bosses that ran The Las Vegas Strip.
So, I can’t agree that Mr. Davis would have wanted the Las Vegas Raiders at that time. That would spell three letters: FBI. And, if you and I think about it, the fact that no one has mentioned organized crime in the context of the Raiders to Las Vegas relocation speaks to how much things have changed. What Mark Davis is doing is unheard of – and never would have been considered possible even ten years ago.
I don’t know this for sure, but I’m going to go out on a wild-haired limb and think that the reason for NFL Venture’s Executive Vice President Eric Grubman’s departure from the league may have had to do with this matter of the acceptance of gambling in the league’s revenue future. I don’t profess to be Eric’s great friend, but I think Grubman has a finger-tip feel for the problems gambling does present for the NFL. I know NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell does.
The main problem here is a set of owners see gambling as the NFL’s future, and that group is headed by Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones. Daring, risk-taking, but always not in a reckless way, Mr. Jones has no issue with the NFL having a gambling future, and once personally told me (at the 2016 Fall NFL Owners Meeting) that Las Vegas Sands Owner Sheldon Adelson would make a great NFL Owner.
Now that the Raiders are moving toward Las Vegas, the question must be asked, again, is Adelson still involved behind the scenes? It sure feels like he is, otherwise the Oakland Raiders wouldn’t be almost in Las Vegas. But I digress.
Al Davis would certainly support what his son Mark is doing, and because Jerry Jones, the elder Davis good friend, is the cheerleader, front and center. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of questions and risks to this to be raised, discussed, and answered before all is said and done. And then, there will be new questions as the Raiders move forward.
For example, can the Raiders afford the stadium operating cost, which at this point, I project to be such that the overall deal’s $500 million in the red? Can the Raiders form over $700 million in Las Vegas Stadium sponsor partnerships? If they can, that problem is solved. I’m concerned the Raiders have failed to announce any meaningful high dollar sponsors – and that’s directly tied to not landing a date to host a Super Bowl Game.
For the first time in the NFL’s history of awarding Super Bowls to teams and cities that built new stadiums, the NFL has not announced a Super Bowl for a new stadium in Las Vegas. LA Rams and Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings all had Super Bowl dates nailed down for dates two years after they were set to open. The Raiders say “We’re playing in Las Vegas in 2020,” but if that’s the case, where’s the 2022 Super Bowl? Not in Las Vegas, it’s in Los Angeles. In fact, 2023? Phoenix. 2024? New Orleans. 2025? Who knows?
Something is wrong. No Super Bowl date means no big sponsorship money. Period.
This Las Vegas Reocation Project no easy task, and Mark Davis should have stayed in Oakland. The Las Vegas move is one Al Davis would have supported at this time in history, but not in the past. Mr. Davis, I’m certain, is very proud of his son, and his Mom sure is, but there’s no question about it: he and Raiders President Marc Badain are taking an awfully large risk.
Happy 4th of July. Happy Birthday, Al Davis!