Oakland Raiders: Relocation Bid Gets A Major Boost From An Unlikely Source

Jan 24, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft before the AFC Championship football game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 24, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft before the AFC Championship football game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

As the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas buzz continues to grow, team owner Mark Davis’ bid got a major boost from one of the unlikeliest of places.

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The Oakland Raiders, long saddled with the worst stadium situation in the league, have generated a ton of buzz lately as their bid to relocate to Las Vegas has been gaining some real momentum. With various team owners weighing in on the topic, the idea of the NFL placing a franchise in Vegas seems not just likely, but inevitable. And with Davis pressing his case to move forward, his bid got a big boost from an unlikely source – Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

The fact that Jerry Jones conspired to shut Mark Davis out of the Los Angeles market (at least until Dean Spanos and the Chargers pull their heads out and decide what they’re going to do) has emboldened the politicians in Oakland to continue sitting on their hands, doing absolutely nothing to keep the Raiders in the East Bay, despite all of their empty lip service to the contrary.

And of course, not helping matters in any way, shape, or form, is the completely intransigent Lew Wolff of the Oakland A’s. Wolff and the A’s, if you’re scoring at home, are the Raiders’ co-tenants in that “how has it not been red-flagged as a cesspool that threatens the health and safety of everybody within a ten mile radius” dump of a stadium who is simply crossing his arms, stomping his feet, and refusing to work with Davis on finding a solution to both of their problems.

In other words, Lew Wolff is just being Lew Wolff.

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With absolutely nothing doing in the Bay Area and the city doing nothing to help keep the Raiders in town, Davis has explored his options and has determined that Las Vegas holds the most enticing key to his team’s future.

After meetings with Sheldon Adelson of the Sands Corporation as well as the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee, Davis was comfortable enough to pledge $500 million dollars toward the construction of a proposed $1.4 billion dollar permanent home for his Raiders.

Davis public pledge sent some shockwaves through the league – and the fanbase, naturally – as it showed that this is not simply a leverage ploy to get the city of Oakland to play ball with him. Davis’ commitment appears to be the real deal.

Not all that long ago, the idea that the NFL would place a team in Sin City was a non-starter. It was unthinkable. But with the league now in bed with gambling ventures like FanDuel and DraftKings, as well as playing games in London – a city that has gambling right across the street from the stadium where they play – attitudes have obviously shifted.

And one of the most influential owners in the league – Robert Kraft – is coming down on the side of Davis and his relocation bid. In an interview with USA Today, Kraft was quoted as saying:

"“I think it would be good for the NFL. I know Mark Davis has tried so hard in Oakland. If they won’t do it … I want to support him.”"

Kraft, unlike some of the other owners in the league like Arthur Blank and John Mara, understand that the times and technology have changed, and the ever present threat of gambling, such as it is, isn’t exclusively limited to a single city.

Said Kraft:

"“I came into the league in ’94. Back then, any exploration of that market was dismissed out of hand. I’m looking where we are today and thinking of the last 10 to 15 years, and the emergence of new media, with Google and Facebook and the like. We’re just living in a different world, technology wise. The risks in Vegas are no longer exclusive to Vegas.”"

More importantly for Davis and the Raiders, Kraft’s support does not appear to come with the one caveat Jerry Jones (otherwise known as Judas) attached to his support for an NFL franchise in Sin City – Mark Davis selling the team.

Jones, who orchestrated the Raiders’ third place finish in the race to LA, said he would only support a Raiders move to Vegas if the “right ownership” was in place – the obvious implication that Davis is not the right kind of owner for him.

Kraft though, in saying in no uncertain terms that he supports Mark Davis, has thrown something of a gauntlet at Jones. Both owners are highly influential, but Kraft as a person, seems to be liked far better than Jones among their league peers.

Even if the Nevada State Legislature convene a special session – they aren’t scheduled to officially meet again until 2017 – and approve the public funding needed (about $750 million) to get the ball rolling on a stadium deal, Davis still has an important hurdle to clear – a vote of the NFL ownership.

Knowing that he needs 24 votes from his fellow owners to move his franchise, having a power broker like Kraft pledge his support is a huge boon for Davis. And it comes a time when he needs it.

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Jones has power and influence among the league ownership. Kraft however, arguably has more. With the talk of a Raiders move to Vegas picking up some real steam, having Kraft in his corner is a huge deal.

And rather than having to take his father’s route to relocation and sue his fellow owners, the younger Davis might just be able to plant his flag in the desert with their approval and far less contention and angst.