The Raiders are coming to Las Vegas for the start of the 2020 NFL season, but the team might be relocating temporarily to a new home in the interim.
The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the Oakland Raiders are threatening to terminate their contract to continue playing their home games at the Coliseum due to an expected forthcoming lawsuit from the city against the NFL franchise and league. Should the litigation come, which will argue that the team’s relocation to Las Vegas violated a multimillion-dollar antitrust lawsuit, the Raiders could rush out of town at the end of this season.
Under the team’s present contract with city officials for use of the stadium, which was extended in the fall of 2017, the Raiders cannot be sued by the city or county over its relocation. If they are, they can legally opt out of the Coliseum contract, and that’s precisely what owner Mark Davis is threatening to do.
The Raiders currently pay $3.5 million per year to use the city-owned Coliseum, and split parking and concession revenues. The contract is through the 2019 NFL season.
When 31 of the 32 NFL owners signed off on Davis’ wishes to relocate the Raiders to Las Vegas in April of 2017, contingency plans were considered should the passionate Bay Area fanbase have retaliated by no longer supporting the team. But the Raiders were fresh off their first postseason appearance in 14 years, and there was plenty of excitement heading into the 2017 season.
Davis reaffirmed to Raider Nation that he wanted to bring the city a Super Bowl title before departing. However, a disappointing 6-10 year kept Oakland out of the playoffs.
Davis hired Jon Gruden to turn things around, as the coach led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl win in 2003, ironically over the Raiders. But Oakland continues to struggle, with their only win this year coming against the Cleveland Browns.
Prior to the kickoff of the regular season, Las Vegas sportsbooks had the Raiders’ Super Bowl 52 odds at 40/1. After the team’s 1-3 start, the line has lengthened to 100/1.
Unless Davis is simply bluffing and has no plans to actually skip town if a lawsuit comes, he might have rather slim pickings in finding the team a new home on such short notice. Officials at UC Berkeley say the school’s Cal Memorial Stadium would have too many logistical challenges to host NFL games, and Stanford University says it hasn’t been in contact with the Raiders.
The San Francisco Chronicle adds that relations between the Raiders and nearby San Francisco 49ers have long been strained, and therefore Levi’s Stadium isn’t likely a possibility.
One venue that might be willing to catch the Raiders is the 65,000-seat Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. Officials in the Texas city said in 2017 they would be willing to host the franchise before it permanently relocates to Las Vegas.