HOUSTON (AP) — His eyes on Las Vegas, Raiders owner Mark Davis says he hasn’t shut the door on anything. Oakland, though, might have shut the door on itself as home for his team.
“Oakland was in the driver’s seat if they could’ve put together anything,” Davis said Wednesday at the NFL’s fall meetings, after updating his fellow owners on his desire to relocate to the gambling capital. “They came up with nothing.
“Las Vegas has already done what it is supposed to do and we have to bring it up to the National Football League and get permission to move to Las Vegas.”
Nevada lawmakers approved a deal last week that increases hotel taxes in the Las Vegas area to raise $750 million for a stadium and more than $400 million to expand and upgrade the Las Vegas Convention Center. Billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson is putting $650 million toward the project, while the Raiders and the NFL will kick in $500 million.
Commissioner Roger Goodell also said the NFL is looking into establishing a developmental league; re-examining the rules for on-field player celebrations; and reopening the labor agreement. He said the league is monitoring declining TV ratings, too.
Several owners insisted it’s far too early to reach any conclusions in the Raiders’ relocation issue, and none of them wanted to touch the relationship an NFL team might have with a casino mogul.
Goodell supported Davis’ assertion there has been no movement toward keeping the franchise in the Bay Area, saying “we have been working to see if there are alternatives and we don’t have one” in Oakland.
“If Oakland is going to be successful in offering the Raiders and the NFL a viable alternative to moving to Las Vegas, I have to stay clearheaded,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “I cannot afford for us to be thrown off our game because Nevada lawmakers have deemed it appropriate to put $750 million in public money towards a private sports facility. While I’m committed to keeping the Raiders, I will not enter into a bidding war with Nevada using public funds.”
Any relocation needs approval from three-fourths of the 32 NFL owners. There’s also the potential for the Raiders to join the Rams in Los Angeles, where a new facility is being built; they would have that option should the Chargers, who have the first option, remain in San Diego, a decision that team must make by mid-January.
But those scenarios also have the possibility of being put on hold — the Chargers could request a delay, something the owners also would need to vote on.
Davis also said he believes having a new stadium ready in Las Vegas by 2019 “would be really quick.” He acknowledged the Raiders could play a preseason game as soon as next summer in the existing Sam Boyd Stadium, but that facility isn’t anywhere near up to NFL standards for regular-season games.
Besides, Davis plans to play the next two years in Oakland because the team has a lease with two one-year options there. He cited “stability” for the players and front office, insisting he doesn’t envision a “scorched earth policy” from the fans.
Houston Texans owner Robert McNair noted he was impressed with all the work done in Las Vegas at this point to get the Raiders.
“I’m pleased they’ve made as much progress as they have,” he said. “We’ll look at it when it is finally presented in total. These things are still so fluid until they nail everything down we don’t know what we’re looking at. We’ll wait until we have a full package.”
Goodell also reaffirmed the league’s longstanding opposition to legalized gambling on sporting events.
“There clearly has been a society shift as far as how people view gambling,” he said. “We are still very much opposed to legalized gambling on sports. We think that has an impact on the integrity of our game.”
— As part of its “2020 Plan,” Goodell said he’s “particularly interested” in creating a developmental league. The NFL has not had one since NFL Europe went out of business in 2007, leaving only the CFL and some indoor leagues as places to nurture prospects.
“We’ve talked about it, and ... that is something we might want to do,” Goodell said. “Teams pick up 300 to 400 players on average from the beginning of the season to the end. Having them ready to play” would be helpful.
— Recognizing that many fans disagree with the strict rules about player celebrations, Goodell said that the powerful competition committee looks into that topic every year.
“It comes to balancing a lot of issues and keeping the professional standards we want to hold. It’s part of being a professional.”
— While praising the labor agreement with the union that extends into early 2021, Goodell said the league frequently has spoken with the NFL Players Association “about various aspects of the CBA and how to improve it. We believe that ultimately would be a good thing and we’ve shared ideas with the union.”
“We’re seeing what we structured five years ago working very well for all parties. It’s leading to a safer game. We think it’s leading to more long-term investments in the communities and stadiums ... and it has obviously led to increases in compensation,” Goodell added.
“I think we are aware of the basic issues and we look forward to (negotiating) at the appropriate time.”
— Asked about declining TV ratings, Goodell mentioned that two of the lowest-rated games were up against presidential debates. He also took note of fragmented audiences that are an issue throughout television, and added he doesn’t see player protests during the national anthem as “a factor” in diminished ratings.
NFL TV ratings have dropped in every presidential election year since 1996. They are down 15 percent so far in 2016, though not all of that can be attributed to counter-programming. Those ratings went down 6 percent in 1996, 10 percent in 2000, 2 percent in 2004 and in 2008, and 4 percent in 2012, according to NFL Network.
“I don’t think there is a single reason for it,” Goodell said. “We look at all those factors. Everyone has theories.
“There are a lot of factors to be considered. We don’t make excuses. We try to look at what’s causing it and make changes.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL