By Steven Taveres.
A grassroots collection of Raiders fan groups believe they have a legal grounds for keeping the NFL franchise in Oakland, and the investor group headed by football great Ronnie Lott still believes a football stadium can be built in Oakland, according to the attorney hired by local fan groups. But, whether it’s the Raiders playing in the proposed stadium or an expansion team bearing the iconic shield logo and silver and black colors, will be work of well-known sports litigator James W. Quinn.
“They’re a tough bunch,” Quinn said of National Football League owners. “But their history with litigation is not good.” Quinn’s services were retained by a number of local fan groups to study whether fans and municipalities might have any legal claims against the NFL after approval was given by owners for the Raiders to move to Las Vegas. Quinn’s experience in sports litigation mainly involves the legal interplay between professional league’s antitrust protections and players’ unions, including five cases involving the NFL.
During a press conference Monday morning in front of Oakland City Hall, Quinn said, “It’s become profitable for the NFL to move teams.” Over three recent rounds of franchise relocations, each NFL owners stands to make roughly $50 million in fees, he said. This includes the estimated $350 million that Raiders owner Mark Davis will need to pay NFL owners to relocate to Las Vegas in 2-3 years from now. “It’s a bizarre incentive,” Quinn added.
A potential lawsuit against the NFL and/or the Raiders might also include the possibility of the City of Oakland retaining the Raiders logo and its colors, presumably in hopes of landing an expansion team or an existing team moving to Oakland, Quinn suggested. “That is something we would be looking at down the road,” said Quinn.
A similar situation followed after the Cleveland Browns left for Baltimore in 1996 and became the Ravens. An expansion team was later awarded to Cleveland in 1999, which became the Browns. Quinn says the key to Cleveland’s success was strong support from local city government.
Oakland and Alameda County is not yet on board, but Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley and Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo offered support to the fan groups and Quinn’s involvement on Monday. Both spoke at the press conference, although each donned Warriors t-shirts, ironically the other Oakland sports franchise slated to leave the city, this time for a new arena in San Francisco. “I know we fought hard to bring the Raiders back in the nineties and we fought hard to keep them,” said Miley, who is also a member of the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority.
Although the organizers of the event continually voiced a desire to keep the reaction to the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas low-key and focus, instead, on the work to bring football back to Oakland, Miley, nonetheless, took a shot at NFL owners. “I just think the NFL is all about greed. It’s not about loyalty or pride.” Miley added that he will begin lobbying his colleagues on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to support the new efforts to keep football in Oakland. Gallo pledged the same.
The Lott group, according to Quinn, still believe their last proposal to the Raiders to build a new stadium at the existing Coliseum complex is still viable. “They’re still waiting in the wings,” said Quinn. “They would still love to do the deal that was originally put together.”