The City of Oakland Sues the NFL
On December 11, 2018, the city of Oakland, California, sued the NFL and all thirty-two NFL teams, over the decision to relocate the Raiders to Las Vegas. In March 2017, the Oakland Raiders announced that they planned to relocate to Las Vegas by 2020. According to the complaint, Oakland went to extraordinary efforts to keep the Raiders from leaving, but the ultimate decision was purely monetary: Las Vegas offered $750 million, ostensibly for a new stadium. Allegedly, as a part of the deal to move to Las Vegas, the Raiders paid, or are paying, $378 million to the thirty-two NFL teams for voting “yes” to the Las Vegas relocation. According to the complaint, this “relocation fee” served no legitimate purpose and, instead, skewed the bidding process for the Raiders in favor of relocation by enriching the NFL teams in return for “yes” votes.
The Raiders current stadium lease, with Oakland Alameda Coliseum, expires after the 2018-2019 season; however, in November 2018, Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN that he would prefer to play next season in Oakland, but he said, “why would I give them $3, $4, $5 million in rent that they’re going to turn around and use to sue me?” Previously, Oakland proposed to build a new stadium to keep the Raiders in Oakland, worth $1.3 billion, $750 million of which would be covered by a mix of public and private funding. However, according to the complaint, “Oakland’s offer did not, and could not, put tens of millions of additional dollars in additional supra-competitive cartel payments in the form of a relocation fee directly into the pockets of each … [NFL team] owner. Only relocating the Raiders [could].”
The city of Oakland claimed that the Raiders’ move – and the bidding process, which preceded it – violated not only the antitrust laws, but also the NFL’s own relocation policies. According to the complaint, under the NFL’s the relocation policies, “there was simply no justification for a Raiders’ relocation. However, [the NFL and the various NFL teams] openly ignored those policies and approved the Raiders’ relocation, not because of some perceived lack of support by Oakland — or some concern about what Oakland was willing to pay … [for] a new … stadium — but because of the supra-competitive payment [the NFL and the various NFL teams] coerced from Las Vegas.”
The city of Oakland also claimed that move caused the city significant injury, including the lost value of its investment, a stadium with diminished value, and the loss of revenue from the Raiders’ presence in Oakland. “This is not a fair process in a competitive marketplace,” claimed the city, “[i]t is [an] NFL-rigged process that, contrary to the policies, promotes relocations in order to further line the pockets of NFL club owners with millions of dollars paid by their billionaire competitors to the sole detriment of host cities that are unwilling or unable to pay.”
Pursuant to the complaint, the city of Oakland is seeking damages it claims were ill-gotten gains resulting from the NFL and the various NFL teams “unlawful, unjust, and inequitable conduct.”