Oakland Raiders: Sorry Folks, Stephen Ross Is A Hypocrite, Not A Hero

Jul 29, 2016; Davie, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross address reporters at Baptist Health Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 29, 2016; Davie, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross address reporters at Baptist Health Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Some Oakland Raiders fans, in the wake of the vote approving their relocation, have rallied around Dolphins owner Stephen Ross as the voice of reason – but nothing could be further from the truth.

In the firestorm of emotion surrounding the league’s approval to move the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, an unlikely figure has emerged as a sort of folk hero with the fans – Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. Casting the lone dissenting vote in Mark Davis’ successful 31-1 vote to move, fans are praising Ross for being the voice of reason, the rebel, and the only team owner willing to stand up to the league.

It’s a position that’s as ridiculous as it is mind-boggling though. Far from being the populist hero many are making him out to be, Ross is simply a hypocrite – though, a very wealthy one.

When it was revealed that Ross cast the lone vote against allowing Davis to move the Raiders to the Silver State, he was hailed as a hero and social media lit up with fans declaring that their allegiances have shifted – out with the Raiders, in with the Dolphins.

The media was not much better, with outlets like the Miami-Herald running a headline like, “Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross Shows Fans What Loyalty Looks Like”

The Herald article was replete with effusive praise about his courage, moral compass – and a host of other platitudes.

And for his part, Ross defended his vote by saying:

"“My position today was that we as owners and as a League owe it to the fans to do everything we can to stay in the communities that have supported us until all options have been exhausted.”"

Sounds great, right? Well, let’s back up a year or so and look at the tape, shall we?

If you recall, that was a time when Stan Kroenke was fighting for his opportunity to move the Rams out of St. Louis and to Los Angeles. Anybody recall how that vote went down?

Just in case you’ve forgotten, Kroenke won the vote to move the Rams by a margin of 30-2. The dissenting votes in that case?

Spoiler alert – Ross was not one of them.

No, the first of those two “no” votes in that case came from Mark Davis (naturally), as he was pretty well getting the shaft in that deal after his joint project with the Chargers blew up in his face. The second “no” vote though, came from Bengals’ owner Mike Brown, who reportedly voted no for — well — his own, personal reasons.

One has to wonder where Ross’ moral compass – the one he’s been praised so effusively for – was in that vote?

As for his reasoning in voting no on the Raiders’ move to Vegas, he wasn’t satisfied that all options in pursuit of a new stadim in the East Bay had been “exhausted.”

So… how could Stan Kroenke have exhausted all possible solutions when he reportedly never even met with the powers that be in St. Louis – including the Mayor of St. Louis, Francis Slay?

"“I have been Mayor of St. Louis since then and I — to this day– cannot ever remember meeting Stan Kroenke, much less engaging with him in any conversations about the future of NFL football in St. Louis.”"

Far from being a moral compass or a hero, one could conceivably make the case that Ross’ vote of dissent was more a case of sour grapes than anything. See, despite being worth more than $7 billion dollars – yes, that’s billion with a B – Ross made a strong push to get the Florida state legislature to use public money to refurbish his stadium.

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Davis was able to procure a whopping $750 million dollar pledge from Nevada to build the Raiders’ new stadium in the desert. Think Ross wasn’t a little upset about that?

At the time, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee had this to say on the subject:

"“We cannot do this without a private-public partnership.”"

And when the attempt to squeeze money out of the legislature failed, Dee – acting as Ross’ mouthpiece to the media – sounded an ominous note about the Dolphin’s future in Miami. And one that contained something that sounded like a somewhat veiled threat.

"“I wouldn’t want to prognosticate what the future holds, but it’s clearly bleak… The Dolphins are one of the only franchises in the National Football League that do not have a long-term lease with their community.”"

Now, because Ross is worth more than $7 billion – billion, still with a B – he was able to dig between his couch cushions to come up with the cash to renovate his stadium. Bully for him that he has that kind of money.

But eventually, the stadium itself is going to grow older. Those refurbishments won’t be so shiny, and he’s going to want a brand new stadium to compete with some of the other shining jewels around the league. So, what then?

The “what then” very well may be Ross picking up and moving his team out of Miami and to another location – say, Palm Beach? It’s a suggestion that has already been floated and one that Ross – via Dee – has said they’re “open” to.

When asked about the possibility that a stadium being built for them in Palm Beach would mean moving out of the place the Dolphins have called home since their birth in1966, Dee had this to say:

"“We’re open minded to all long-term solutions. You can’t close the door on anything. I wouldn’t say it’s a priority to evaluate that and march down that road at this time, by any means, but the simple fact is we have to address a long-term issue with the venue. All ideas — good, bad, indifferent — should be considered.”"

So – given all of that, one has to wonder, where that moral compass that Stephen Ross has recently become famous for is hiding? Yes, he paid for upgrades to his current digs, but it’s also with the veiled threat of yanking his team out of its ancestral home for a shiny new place if no “long-term” solution can be found in Miami.

There was little doubt that the relocation vote was going to break Davis’ way long before the first ballot was cast. It seems more than likely that Ross cast his vote the way he did to gin up a little goodwill and positive PR. It was a symbolic – albeit empty – gesture. And it’s a gesture that he himself contradicted on several occasions in the not-too-distant past.

But yes, by all means, cheer for Ross – a real man of the people. For a time is going to come in the no-too-distant future when this populist heroism he’s suddenly synonymous with will go right out the window – probably about the same time the Dolphins need a new stadium.