Oakland Raiders: The "L.A. Issue" Just Won't Die!
John Doublin – Jul 9, 2012
Ever since the Minnesota legislature passed a bill to make it possible for the Vikings to have a new stadium built in Minneapolis, the debate over whether or not the Oakland Raiders should move back to Los Angeles has resurfaced more fervent than ever.
Like any debate, there are solid, logical points made on both sides of the issue and both sides are equally passionate about their stance.
Proponents are saying that the team would be more financially successful in L.A. and that it would be a more attractive selling feature for high-profile free agents. Those opposing the move cite that L.A. had three separate chances to keep an NFL franchise and couldn't generate the fan support to make it successful and that Oakland is the team's historic home.
Both valid arguments, but there are other factors that must be considered before a decision is made.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been outspoken about the league's desire to have a team in Los Angeles. There isn't much doubt that in the recent past that what Roger wants, Roger gets—and by any means necessary.
All signs point to Goodell wanting the Raiders, and no other team, in Los Angeles. When the aforementioned Minnesota legislature voted down the first bill that would allocate funds for a new stadium for the Vikings, Mr. Goodell and his team of lawyers sprung into action like someone had sent up the Bat-Signal.
Following his meeting with state officials, the Minnesota "powers that be" took a new vote and miraculously, passed the bill in the second attempt. It seems Mr. Goodell made the politicians in Minnesota an offer they couldn't refuse.
Until this point, the Vikings had been in the running for moving to Los Angeles right along with the Raiders, Rams and Chargers. However, Mr. Goodell's actions have eliminated the Vikings from that conversation.
Why did Goodell find it necessary to speak to Minnesota state officials, and not Oakland, St Louis or San Diego officials? Why does he feel it was required to help the Vikings stay home, and not the Raiders, Rams or Chargers? Does he want a team in Los Angeles, or doesn't he?
Or, is it more likely that Goodell wants one, specific team in Los Angeles?
It appears that Goodell will do anything to remove all teams except the Raiders from the L.A. discussion.
Now, Anschutz Entertainment Group, (AEG) has assumed control of the Raiders stadium, O.co coliseum. Most sports fans know AEG as the company that owns the Staples Center, the Nokia Theater and the rights to build Farmers Field in Los Angeles.
Mr. Anschutz has made it abundantly clear that he'd like to be the man to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles.
However, what most people don't know is that Anschutz isn't satisfied with merely owning the venue in L.A., he wants to own the team that plays there as well. Assuming control of O.co falls right in line with AEG's mode of operations. Sieze control of the venue, then purchase the team.
Anschutz did this with the L.A. Kings of the NHL. He built them a stadium, then purchased majority ownership in the now Stanley Cup champions. This isn't the first time he's done this either. Anschutz owns professional sports venues all over the world, and in each case, he followed up that property ownership with at least partial ownership of the team that plays there.
He followed up this ownership of the NHL team with the purchase of the L.A. Galaxy of MLS.
At present, Anschutz owns 120 sports and entertainment venues worldwide. Along with primary ownership of the Kings and Galaxy, Anschutz holds at least partial ownership of the Colorado Rapids, Chicago Fire, San Jose Earthquakes, New York/New Jersey MetroStars and D.C. United in Major League Soccer.
In addition, Anschutz and AEG have shares in the AHL's Manchester Monarchs, the ECHL's Reading Royals and Ontario Reign, the Swedish soccer team Hammarby IF, part of Swedish hockey team Djurgårdens IF, and the German ice hockey teams Hamburg Freezers and Eisbären Berlin.
Oh...did I forget? AEG also has partial ownership of the Los Angeles Lakers.
What do all of these teams have in common? AEG ownership started the same way: Control the venue first, then acquire the team. Remember, as stated previously, Anschutz and AEG have already acquired operational control of O.co coliseum—home of the Raiders.
Step one: Complete!
This makes one wonder: Is Anschutz going to be happy simply owning Farmers Field or O.co? Or is it more likely that he is merely taking the first step to NFL ownership with the Raiders, just as he has done so many times in the past?
With all that said, how does it affect the Raiders?
We know that Goodell and the NFL would like to get their hands into the pockets of the estimated 9.8 million people in Los Angeles county. The questions become: What will they do to make it happen, and will it be a success in its third go around?
The answers are: Anything, and no.
L.A. has had no less than three opportunities to host an NFL team, and three times the city of angels has failed to generate the fan support to make keep those teams. In 1949, the Rams left Cleveland for L.A. and played there for over 40 years. Several division titles, an appearance in Super Bowl XIV and a championship in 1951 weren't enough for the citizens of L.A. and the Rams left for St. Louis.
In 1960, the Chargers won the first ever AFL championship as the team from L.A., but the fans didn't show up and the team moved to San Diego.
In 1982, the Raiders moved to Los Angeles, obtained a record of 118-82, (.590 win percentage) won six division titles, made seven playoff appearances and won Super Bowl XVIII. The city of L.A. paid back this spectacular run with an empty stadium that was never upgraded as they promised the late, great Al Davis it would be.
Fact: The Raiders sold an average of 4,800 more tickets per home game in Oakland during the misery era of 2002 through 2009 than they did during their dominant, championship caliber play in L.A..
Why? Because the city of Los Angeles is not a "Football town." Ever since the Dodgers moved there in the 1950's, L.A. has been a "Baseball town." Just after the Dodgers in the hearts of the average L.A. fan comes the Lakers. It is not an indictment on the city, it's just the attitude of the citizens—the NFL is not their favorite sport.
Of course, if the Raiders do move to Los Angeles, Raider Nation will show up in full force. The fans of the Raiders are the most loyal of any fan base in any sport in any country. Unfortunately, it takes more than the Die-Hards to make a professional sports franchise successful. It takes the average citizen to buy the other 20,000 to 30,000 seats not purchased by the hard core fans.
The average L.A. citizen has already proven on three previous occasions that they will not do that. They simply don't care enough about the NFL to do so. If you stop 100,000 people, (that aren't already Raider fans) on the streets and offer them box seats to the Dodgers, courtside seats to the Lakers, or 50 yard line seats to the Raiders, more than 90 percent of them would take the Dodger or Lakers tickets.
Again, not an indictment on the city, just that their priorities are different than the average citizen of Oakland. If you were to make a similar offer on the streets of Oakland, the resutls would be nearly the reverse of that. The vast majority of average Oakland residents would take the Raiders' tickets over the A's or Warriors. And honestly, the NHL's San Jose Sharks would likely beat out the Warriors.
So, why does Goodell and the league think things will be different now? Does he honestly believe that the city of L.A. has changed it's identity?
Nothing has changed. The people of L.A. are good people, but not NFL fans. (Remember, this is not true of Raider Nation, only the average citizen.) Even college football is closer to the heart of L.A. people than the NFL is, or ever will be.
Proof? While the Raiders were winning almost 60 percent of their games, winning their division and winning the Super Bowl, they failed to sell out the delapidated L.A. Coliseum. Meanwhile, the Trojans of USC were selling out the very same venue, every game, every week, every season. So, the argument that the L.A. coliseum was in a bad neighborhood and that is what prevented the fans from showing up is completely invalid.
If it were that bad, USC fans wouldn't have shown up either. It just goes to show where the city's priorities lie—and NFL football is way down on the list.
Ultimately, there is nothing to suggest that L.A. cares anymore about the NFL now than it did in the 80's and 90's when the Raiders were there the first time. "A tiger doesn't change its stripes" and a city doesn't change its historical identity.
Of course, whichever team finally does move to L.A. will enjoy a boom of support initially. The shiny new stadium and the sexy new advertising campaigns will cause people to show up—at first. But just like the Rams in the 40's and 50's, the Chargers in 1960 and the Raiders from 1982 to 1994, the "newness" and excitement will wear off and the attendance will drop just as it did in the past.
So, where does this leave us?
This leaves the citizens of Oakland with a choice to make. Do nothing and you will lose your beloved Raiders. Or, make a stand, speak out, put the city officials and politicians on notice that their very jobs are on the line if they don't keep the Raiders in Oakland.
Make no mistake. There absolutely will be a team in L.A. and Goodell and the NFL are not on your side. They are on the side of anyone that will help them get a team in Los Angeles. Mr. Anschutz is that man and he will have the full support and help of Goodell and the league office.
Out of area fans cannot help you. A writer from Raider Nation TImes can't help you—and rest assured, the people of Los Angeles and the "powers that be" in the NFL league office won't help you. Only you, the Raider Nation in the Bay Area, can prevent the team from moving.
If you find yourself undecided, ask yourself this: Do you really want Philip Anschutz, (a billionaire from Denver...DENVER) and not the Davis family owning the Raiders?
Here are some e-mail, physical addresses and telephone numbers Raider Nation can, and should use to tell the team, the city and the league how important it is to you to keep the Raiders in Oakland.
Raiders Managing General Partner
Oakland Raiders Headquarters
1220 Harbor Bay Parkway, Alameda, CA 94502.
Phone: (510) 864-5000
Fred Blackwell-(Critical Contact!)
Assistant City Adminstrator in charge of redevelopment and "Coliseum City" project.
City Council Person At Large
Mayor of Oakland
It's time to let these people know how you feel. Call them, write them, e-mail them. Keep it respectful, but firm. Aggression and threats will be counter-productive, but so will being too soft or doing nothing.
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