Oakland sues Raiders, NFL 'cartel,' raising doubt about where team will play in 2019

The city of Oakland has made good on a threat to bring legal action against the Raiders and the NFL.

Oakland filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the team and the league seeking damages for what it classifies as an illegal move to Las Vegas, which is planned for 2020.

A federal lawsuit filed by Oakland against the Raiders puts in peril where the team will play in 2019. (Getty)
A federal lawsuit filed by Oakland against the Raiders puts in peril where the team will play in 2019. (Getty)

Suit: Move to Las Vegas ‘lines pockets of owners’

“The defendants brazenly violated federal antitrust law and the league’s own policies when they boycotted Oakland as a host city,” city attorney Barbara Parker announced in a statement. “The Raiders’ illegal move lines the pockets of NFL owners and sticks Oakland, its residents, taxpayers and dedicated fans with the bill. The purpose of this lawsuit is to hold the defendants accountable and help to compensate Oakland for the damages the defendants’ unlawful actions have caused and will cause to the people of Oakland.”

The suit does not ask the courts to force the Raiders to remain in Oakland.

Prior to the season, City Council member Noel Gallo cited $200 million in investments the city made when discussing the potential of a lawsuit with KPIX.

Mayor Libby Schaff cited the team’s “bad faith” in tweeting about the lawsuit on Tuesday.

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Do the Raiders have a home in 2019?

The lawsuit puts in peril where the Raiders will play in 2019 as their lease in Oakland will expire after the team’s last home game this season. The East Bay Times reports that the team and stadium authority were in the midst of negotiations for next year and potentially beyond if delays in the new Las Vegas stadium warranted an extra year in Oakland.

The Raiders have vowed to leave early if the city followed through on its threats of legal action.

“The Raiders demand language that assures them the city will not file a lawsuit against them,” Coliseum authority executive director Scott McKibben previously told the Times.

Oakland: NFL is a ‘cartel’

The city’s statement on the lawsuit referred to the NFL as a “cartel” and cited a relocation fee that required the Raiders to pay the NFL and its owners $370 million to move to Las Vegas.

“The NFL, indeed, was more than a business: it was an unlawful cartel violating its own Relocation Policies and abusing its complete control of the relevant market in the pursuit of anticompetitive payments,” the suit states.

City Council member Rebecca Kaplan called the fee a bribe.

“The NFL relocation payment scheme is an improper bribe that the NFL receives for allowing relocations and to pit cities against each other,” Kaplan told the Times. “This is a wrongful system and they should not be allowed to keep those bribes.”

Mark Davis has not yet responded

Mark Davis, right, has a big decision on where Jon Gruden will coach the Raiders next season. (Getty)
Mark Davis, right, has a big decision on where Jon Gruden will coach the Raiders next season. (Getty)

Neither team owner Mark Davis nor the NFL have responded publicly to the lawsuit.

Davis told ESPN in November that he preferred to remain in Oakland in 2019.

“Emotionally, I would say, why would I give them $3 [million], $4 [million], $5 million in rent that they’re going to turn around and use to sue me?” Davis said. “But, at the same time, if they’ll have us, I can’t turn on the fans. I can’t do it. And this is terrible negotiating I’m doing now. I’m going to get killed. But that’s just the way I am. But, if in fact it does get ugly, and can’t be bridged, we do have options.”

Where will the Raiders play in 2019?

What those options are are not clear. Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium, which hosts UNLV football, has a 40,000-seat capacity and doesn’t meet the standards of an NFL football stadium.

Of course, a similar situation hasn’t stopped the Chargers from playing in the 27,000-seat StubHub center as the team awaits its new home in Los Angeles after leaving San Diego.

Presumably, the Raiders would seek another temporary Bay Area home if Las Vegas wasn’t a viable option.

The suit leaves a lot of questions still unanswered. What is clear is that the breakup between Oakland and the Raiders will continue to get uglier.

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