Raiders Left Without Permanent Home Following NFL Relocation Decision

On January 12, 2016, NFL owners met in Houston and approved a plan to move the St. Louis Rams to Inglewood, California — a city just a few miles south of downtown Los Angeles. The owners also granted the San Diego Charges an option to join the Rams in Inglewood, provided that the team exercise the option by January 2017. The league noted that if the Charges fail to  exercise the option, then the Oakland Raiders will have the option to make the move to LA and share the stadium with the Rams. However, for the time being, this decision leaves the Raiders — a team also on the hunt for a new home — in a tight spot with little legal recourse.

Earlier this month, the Rams, Chargers, and Raiders filed applications to relocate to Los Angeles for the 2016 season. The Chargers and Raiders have been tied to a stadium proposal in Carson, California, while the Rams have pursued a stadium project in Inglewood. On Tuesday, owners representing each NFL team met to vote on the proposed stadium projects. The owners voted an overwhelming 30-2 in favor of the Inglewood proposal over the Carson stadium proposal. In addition to approving the Rams’ relocation to Inglewood, the league provided the Chargers with an option to move and share the future stadium with the Rams. However, the Chargers will have to exercise the option before January 2017, or else the Raiders will then have the option to move to Inglewood. As such, for the time being, the Raiders are barred from relocating to LA unless the Chargers decide not to. So, what are the Raiders to do? Well, the team can wait and see what the Chargers decide, attempt to strike a deal with the city of Oakland for a new stadium option, or try to find another location to relocate. The team may also try to litigate the league’s decision through an antitrust claim, however, the potential for legal recourse seems grim.

If the Raiders do however, decide to take legal action over the relocation issue, it would not be the first time. Back in the 1980s, the team was involved in a high-profile antitrust suit against the NFL when the league prevented the Raiders from relocating to the Los Angeles Coliseum after the L.A. Rams moved to a stadium in Anaheim, California. In that action, the Ninth Circuit upheld a decision finding the NFL’s rule requiring a three-quarter vote of owners to approve relocation was unreasonable. Following the suit, the league has been more cautious on interfering with issues of relocation. However, if the Raiders were to bring an antitrust suit this time around, the NFL may have a better argument to defend itself. Legal scholars have reportedly touched on the issues, noting that the Raiders would essentially have to prove that they were denied relocation for no good reason and the denial prevents competition with an existing team. The team would likely have trouble establishing this because the decision was the result of a bidding process where it was determined that other proposals were more advantageous. More importantly, the league can point to various “good reasons” to support the denial of the Raiders’ bid, such as the impracticality of having three teams in LA.

Hope is not lost for the Raiders , however. The NFL has said it will provide $100 million in funding to the Raiders and Chargers for new stadiums in their respective cities so long as a deal is approved by league owners before January 2017. Additionally, the team may still exercise the option to move to Inglewood if the Chargers decide not to. The Raiders may even consider relocating to an international market, like London for example.

The location of the Raiders’ future home is very much “up in the air” at this point and the organization must either work to find a solution in Oakland or relocate elsewhere.

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