Oct 8, 2011 was a sad day for Oakland Raiders fans, as former coach and long time owner Al Davis died of heart failure in an Oakland hotel. Davis was long recognized as the face of the Raiders, coining the phrase “Just win, baby,” which became a montre for the franchise and a symbol for the bad boy mentality that the Raiders have long embodied.
For true Raider fans, “Just win, baby,” evokes memories of old tales of the Silver and Black, which depict players like Fred Biletnikoff and Lester Hayes lathering their hands in Stick ‘Em to gain advantage, and Raider legends like George Atkinson and Jack Tatum dealing out bone-crushing hits to daring ball carriers. All of the aforementioned team greats carried a spirit that hasn’t been present in the Raiders DNA for many years, one that carried a winning attitude and unrivaled swagger. New rules in the 90s and 2000s looking out for safety and fairness, dulled their edge, falling into multiple streaks of losing seasons. However, Al Davis’ passing has brought on a new generation of Raiders football, led by new owner Mark Davis, Al’s son.
The 2016-17 year has been the most productive season for the Raiders since their Super Bowl run in 2002, marking a possible return to their winning ways of old. At the same time that this shift is occurring on the field, big changes are happening off the field as well. As of Jan. 19, the franchise has submitted an application to relocate the team to Las Vegas. Required for a team’s relocation is a ¾ vote of in favor of the move from the other owners in the league. Included in this application are blueprints for a new dome-style stadium in Las Vegas. The new stadium is expected to seat 65,000 and would be shared with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ football program. Various owners around the league have supported the team’s move, but true Raider fans are upset that the team would leave California.
While this wouldn’t be the first time the Raiders have relocated, it would be the first time the franchise would leave the state of California. In 1982, the team relocated from Oakland to Los Angeles despite attempts from the league to slow down the process. During 1982’s move, owners voted 22-0 in favor of the move (with some owners abstaining). However, the NFL cited an injunction against the team’s move, which led then owner Al Davis to file an antitrust lawsuit against the league in hopes of overriding the injunction.
After two years of mistrial and haggling, the courts found the NFL wrongful in their actions, and the team was allowed to relocate to Los Angeles. The franchise would remain there for 12 years before later returning to Oakland and its loyal fan base. The two moves show the volatility the franchise faced under Al Davis’ ownership, and now his son is attempting something that could potentially cause the loss of hundreds of thousands of fans in California.
This time around, the NFL may once again attempt to intervene. The league has long been opposed to gambling, and the Raiders could be the first team in the nation’s gambling capital, which could prove to be treacherous for league policy. However, with the heavy presence of fantasy sports betting in recent years, interesting propositions for increased league revenue have come about. The following for fantasy sports betting has been growing exponentially in the past decade, as experts estimate “that daily games will generate around […] $14.4 billion [by] 2020.” Despite growth of the betting realm, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has stayed strong in his support of league policy, saying, “If we did in any way approve the Raiders’ move, I don’t see us compromising on any of the policies.”
While the move brings possible league contention and a loss of fanbase to the table, it also provides huge opportunities for the Raiders. The ‘bad boy’ mentality would certainly be recognized in Las Vegas, which is widely known for its nickname, Sin City. Furthermore, the city offers an untapped market, new investors, and a new stadium which the Raiders have desperately tried to gain for years.
While it seems as though the move will go through, the team still owns two one-year options at the Oakland Coliseum. Owner Mark Davis said of the Raiders: “We want to bring a Super Bowl championship back to the Bay Area.”
The relocation vote among league owners is tentatively planned for late March of this year.