Even if NFL teams didn’t necessarily love the Oakland Raiders’ move to Las Vegas, they also had to come to this reality: There was no other good option for the Raiders. At least Las Vegas was offering $750 million for a new stadium. That’s why the vote was an overwhelming 31-1.
But there was the one no vote. In time, perhaps Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross will be remembered as the voice of reason.
There are reasons to be skeptical about the Las Vegas move. Ross, in a statement via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, said his main opposition was in relocation itself. This is the NFL’s third time moving a franchise in a little more than a year. That’s not a great look for the NFL.
“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,” Ross said. “I want to wish Mark Davis and the Raiders organization the best in Las Vegas.”
The NFL is the most popular sport in the United States by far, but moving yet another team after a season of people bloviating about the sport’s television ratings moving down a tick. That isn’t the best look. In the other two recent moves, the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers moved to a larger market after not being able to land a new stadium in their old cities. The Raiders had stadium issues for many years, but the Bay Area is a much bigger market than Las Vegas. It is fair to view the move as a downgrade, in that sense.
“It’s a tough day for the National Football League and especially the fans of Oakland. We’ve now had three teams move in the last 16 months,” Broncos president Joe Ellis said, according to the team’s transcript. “Anytime a team relocates, it is difficult on their fan base and their community.
“I credit the Raiders for coming up with a creative solution that gets them what will be a great state-of-the art venue. Las Vegas appears to be a city on the rise that will support NFL football, and certainly, the Raiders fan base has always followed them where they have gone over the years.”
Even though the Broncos and other teams had expressed some trepidation about the Raiders’ move, everyone except the Dolphins voted yes.
As has been pointed out, Ross spent $500 million of his own money to renovate the Dolphins’ stadium. The fact that Las Vegas promised $750 million in tax money, a record for a sports stadium, shouldn’t sit well with everyone in the NFL, which makes about $13 billion a year at last check. But, we all know that business is business, and there hasn’t been any public backlash from the owners over the amount of public money Las Vegas is giving a league that is insanely rich.
But Ross did express that he thought the Raiders should have done more to stay in Oakland.
“I think when you own a team, you’re a steward of that team and you have obligations to the community,” Ross said, according to the Palm Beach Post. “I think you’d only move a team if you really exhausted all the possibilities. I don’t believe they did.”
Oakland tried last-ditch efforts to save the Raiders, but were quickly shot down by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who seemed to rule those stadium plans out because they included Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s as well.
There’s no guarantee the Las Vegas Raiders will work. It’s not a huge market, the idea that tourists will fill the stadium every week is dubious at best, and the NFL does have to dance around the gambling issue that it has been so adamantly against for so many years. But 31 owners are good with the idea. Ross’ negative vote didn’t change anything, but he obviously wanted his opposition on the record.
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