THE LOS ANGELES RAIDERS?
An intercity bidding war over the Oakland Raiders is nearing a showdown. On one side is the Los Angeles Coliseum, which is now vacant because of the Rams' decision to play next season in Anaheim Stadium, 30 miles to the south. Hoping to persuade the Raiders to shift to L.A., the commission operating the Coliseum has promised to spend $17 million for moving expenses, luxury boxes and a new practice field. On the other side is the Oakland Coliseum. To keep the Raiders, Oakland officials have offered to spend up to $13 million on improvements. This might well involve letting the Oakland A's buy out their lease and move to Denver. That would provide $4 million of the $13 million and leave the stadium entirely to the Raiders.
One stumbling block to a move to L.A. is an NFL bylaw requiring that any franchise shift be approved by 21 of the league's 28 clubs. The NFL used to require unanimous approval, but in an apparent effort to strengthen its legal position, it reduced the number of requisite votes to 21 when, in 1978, the L.A. Coliseum Commission greeted the Rams' decision to leave by bringing a federal antitrust suit. That suit is pending, and Commissioner Pete Rozelle, worried that a Raider departure might arouse a public outcry in Oakland, vows to fight. That puts Oakland boss Al Davis on the spot. His chances of mustering the necessary 21 votes of his co-owners are uncertain, and if he tries to move unilaterally, a subsequent NFL victory in court could leave him without a stadium. Rozelle has warned that the Raiders also could be dropped from the 1980 NFL schedule. The L.A. Coliseum's operatives are also in a bind because their renovations must begin soon if they are to be completed by next season. Accordingly, they have asked the federal court in which their antitrust suit is pending to speed up proceedings by enjoining the NFL from blocking a Raider move to L.A.
If, on the other hand, the Raiders remain in Oakland, they will not be the first club to have used enticements from the Los Angeles Coliseum as leverage in extracting better deals at home; the Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Colts all have done so.