Oakland Raiders up next in Roger Goodell's All The Wrong Moves series

By Ira Miller, The Sports Xchange  |  March 23, 2017 at 2:50 PM
share with facebook
share with twitter
| License Photo

NFL owners will discuss a pitch next week followed by a decision whether to allow the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas. That this is even a matter of discussion is another indication of the failed leadership of Roger Goodell, the league's commissioner.

The NFL is a league whose success has been built on the back of television and the riches that TV confers on the league and its teams. So, given that, why exactly would it make sense to move the Raiders from the nation's No. 6 market (the San Francisco Bay Area) to No. 42 (Las Vegas)?

Certainly it doesn't make sense based on any logical measures.

There are more people in the Bay Area, which has a population of more than seven million, compared to 600,000 in the Las Vegas area.

There is more money in the Bay Area, where the median household income is more than $63,000, highest in the nation, compared to $42,000 in Las Vegas.

And there is certainly more NFL history in the Bay Area, both with the Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers. Further, there is a more stable population in the Bay Area than in Las Vegas, which depends on transient tourists for the most significant part of its economy.

No, there is not a single level on which moving the Raiders from Oakland to Las Vegas makes a shred of sense, no matter how much loot Vegas interests are willing to commit to the building of a stadium. The NFL ought to be acutely aware of the danger of flirting with eager cities instead of taking care of the cities you already have, after having the Rams move from Los Angeles to Anaheim to St. Louis and ultimately back again, and the Raiders having moved from Oakland to Los Angeles and back again.

But it might happen and, if it does, you can place the blame strictly at the feet of the commissioner for lack of strong leadership.

Look, dealing with these teams and their owners is difficult, let's admit that. But that's why Goodell is paid in the neighborhood of $30 or $40 million a year - to solve difficult problems and to exert leadership.

It makes no sense, zero, none, to take a franchise that has been selling out its games in a crummy stadium in a huge market, and move it to any kind of stadium in a much smaller market away from its loyal fan base.

Sure, the city of Oakland doesn't have the money to throw at the Raiders to built the kind of palace, say, Jerry Jones put up in Texas. Oakland doesn't have the money to throw at the Raiders to build almost any kind of playpen, probably.

But let's think about this for a minute.

The Raiders' Bay Area neighbors, the San Francisco 49ers, had to move to Santa Clara, in the suburbs of San Jose, because they couldn't get a new stadium built in San Francisco. It just so happens that the 49ers' stadium in Santa Clara is about 10 miles closer to Oakland's city hall than it is to San Francisco's city hall.

Thus, the solution to the Raiders' stadium problem is so simple, it's nuts that the league isn't forcing it down Mark Davis' gullet. Just as the Giants and Jets share a stadium in New Jersey, and the Rams and Chargers in a couple of years will be sharing a stadium in Los Angeles, the 49ers and Raiders ought to be sharing a stadium in the Bay Area.

Levi's Stadium is not in San Francisco, and it is not in Oakland. For that matter, it is not in San Jose, either, although it is much closer to San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley, than to either of the other two cities. And that's a good thing, because the nation's richest zip codes are a heck of a lot closer to Levi's Stadium than they were to Candlestick Park or than they are to the Oakland Coliseum.

Strong leadership from the NFL office should have made this happen long ago, but one of the reasons Paul Tagliabue was not voted into the Hall of Fame was his inability to solve the league's California problem. Yeah, we know, even the late, revered Pete Rozelle couldn't satisfy the late Al Davis, and it was on Rozelle's watch that the Raiders moved the first time, to L.A.

That is ancient history. Times have changed. The price tag for new stadiums has gone through the roof. So has the NFL's income, particularly from television, and did we happen to mention that the Bay Area is a much more significant market than the Las Vegas area?

Further, what makes a move like this particularly idiotic at this time is that the Raiders are by far, the more attractive Bay Area team for the first time in ages. They are coming off their first winning season and playoff year in 14 years, they have a terrific young quarterback in Derek Carr, and they are a team clearly on the rise, in contrast to the 49ers, who were 2-14 last year and have no idea who their next quarterback is going to be.

With a strong leader, the NFL would be able to force the only sensible solution, for the Raiders and 49ers to share a stadium. Unfortunately, at just the time the league needs strong leadership, it has Roger Goodell.

--Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than five decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.

Trending Stories