Since the The National Football League’s decision to move it’s popular NFL Draft from city to city, as many as 20 urban areas have submitted bids to or expressed interest in hosting the league’s player selection meeting. The conventional wisdom would seem to be that Oakland is out automatically of the running to host the NFL Draft in the future. The apparent reason is the Oakland Raiders are deep in the process of relocating to Las Vegas, plus the NFL Draft has been held in cities with teams: Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, and now Nashville, with Vegas in talks for a future event. So, Oakland’s out, right?
Well, the NFL says no, not at all.
Asked by me, Zennie Abraham of Zennie62Meddia, if Oakland could submit a bid for a future NFL Draft, NFL Senior Vice President Peter O’Reilly (who’s in charge of planning for league events like the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft) said “Well, there’s certainly an openness there, to ah.. We will go out to all cities, later this summer, for an expression of interest. Clearly, the Raiders are focused on Las Vegas as a potential Draft destination and we will be working with them on that. But, at this point, nothing is off the table.”
That would include Oakland itself submitting a bid to host the NFL Draft. And why not Oakland? Oakland has the Raiders, and looks like it will for at least the next three years, depending on when the Las Vegas NFL / UNLV Stadium is ready. (Vocal proponents, like Las Vegas labor union politco Tommy White, say the facility will make its August 2020 deadline for opening, but the documents on the Las Vegas Stadium Authority website say only the “certificate of readiness for occupancy” is expected to be issued in mid-August, and that it would take “three months” to move in, before the Las Vegas Stadium can be truly considered ready to host a full NFL Season. NFL observers this author has talked do don’t, at this point, forcee the Raiders playing a split NFL season in Oakland then Las Vegas, but the Raiders themselves have not responded on this, yet.)
Moreover, Oakland not only has the Raiders, but is at the geographic center of one of the richest regions for sports, college or pro. The San Francisco / Oakland Bay Area has two NFL teams, two major college football teams in the California Golden Bears and Stanford Cardinal, many other legendary college football teams at various levels, and is a major producer of college and NFL football talent.
And the Bay Area itself is a major world tourist destination, in addition to its NFL regional status and history. An NFL Draft in Oakland would be a fitting way to close out a rich, if controversial period of the Raiders and the league’s history. There’s just one very possible action that could stand in the way. A lawsuit.
According to two well-placed Oakland City Hall sources, the City of Oakland is “close to filing a lawsuit” against the Oakland Raiders and the NFL, as of yesterday. And while the meaning of the word “close” was not defined (Will it be next week or next month?) the fact is, from what the sources say, the filing of a lawsuit is a matter of time.
But will that necessarily eliminate Oakland from submitting a bid to the NFL to host the NFL Draft? From this author’s experience as founder and executive director of the Oakland-Alameda County Sports Commission which formed the Oakland bid to host the 2005 Super Bowl in 1999-2000, the answer is no, if history is any guide.
When the Oakland-Alameda County Sports Commission conceived of the bid documents for the 2005 Super Bowl, the City of Oakland, together with Alameda County and the Oakland Coliseum Joint Powers Authority were in the middle of a lawsuit against the Raiders. That did not stop the NFL from working with Oakland, taking meetings on the progress of the bid, offering suggestions on how to improve it, or finally voting on it. Out of many cities, Oakland and Miami lost to Jacksonville on the third voting ballot at the 2000 Fall NFL Owners Meeting in Atlanta.
So, the next time someone mentions that Oakland should submit a bid to host the NFL Draft, don’t discount the chances of the place long-time Oaklanders call “The Town.”
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