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L.A. Calling

Rumors about the Raiders returning to Los Angeles surfaced again after National Football League owners voted 29-0 to award an expansion franchise to Houston on Oct. 6.

The NFL chose Houston over Los Angeles, the nation's second largest television market. Houston is the 11th biggest market.

Los Angeles has been without an NFL franchise since 1995, when the Raiders returned to Oakland and the Rams moved from Anaheim to St. Louis.

Raiders owner Al Davis is suing Oakland to escape his lease, which runs through 2010. He also has pending litigation against the NFL, claiming the team holds territorial rights to the lucrative Los Angeles market.

Both trials are scheduled to begin next year.

Davis claims that Alameda County and the city of Oakland have failed to honor guarantees made when the franchise returned to Northern California. He said he was promised that all club seats, suites and personal seat licenses would be sold out at the Oakland Coliseum (since renamed Network Associates Coliseum in 1998).

The Raiders ranked 29th in NFL attendance in 1998, averaging 48,319 fans in the 62,500-seat Coliseum. They haven't had a regular-season sellout since their home opener in 1997.

Fueling speculation about his team's return to LA-LA-LAND, Davis said in a Sept. 26th Chicago Tribune story: "I'm in pro football to win, to have the Raiders dominate, to have the Raiders be global, and we're not going to be able to do that in a half-filled stadium."

The Raiders averaged 52,719 fans in 1994, their final season at the L.A. Coliseum.

After losing to Houston in the expansion sweepstakes, Los Angeles once again becomes an option for the Raiders or any other NFL franchise unhappy with their stadium lease.

"A team needs to move to Los Angeles," Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters in Atlanta following the announcement of Houston becoming the league's 32nd franchise. "We will have football in Los Angeles, and soon."

Houston will begin play as an AFC team in 2002. The Texas city has been without an NFL team since the Oilers relocated to Tennessee following the 1995 season.

Houston businessman Bob McNair paid a record expansion fee of $700 million. The city also has promised $195 million of public funds to build a $310 million stadium.

Three Los Angeles ownership groups couldn't match Houston's financial clout. The highest offer was a reported $500 million, and all three Smogville bids lacked public funding for a new stadium.

What a stunner. The greedy NFL owners went with the person who could write the biggest check.

The Raiders' Davis longs to be in the same position.

Published: 10-7-1999

New Spin From L.A.
The Raiders are considering a return to Los Angeles, according to a published report in the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 20, 1999.

The copyrighted story said that team owner Al Davis met secretly with new Oakland mayor Jerry Brown. The story quoted Stacey Wells, the mayor's spokesperson, as saying that Davis "seems to be interested in moving the team." Wells said the meeting took place within a few days of the Super Bowl, which was held on Jan. 31.

While the Times' story hardly qualifies as breaking news, major Web sites such as CNNSI, ESPN and USA TODAY carried the report. The Times also quoted Joseph M. Alioto Jr., an attorney for the Raiders, saying that the team could move simply by giving notice to the league within 90 days of the Super Bowl and agree to pay a "termination fee" of $500,000, which wouldn't be until 2011.

Alioto also said the Raiders could void the remaining 12 years of their lease at Network Associates Coliseum because Oakland and Alameda County officials have failed to deliver sellout crowds. The Raiders ranked 29th in NFL attendance in 1998, averaging 48,319 fans in the 62,500-seat Coliseum.

Alameda County officials dispute Alioto's claim that the Raiders could relocate by paying a termination fee. City and county officials sued the team in October 1997, accusing the Raiders of threatening to break the 16-year lease and of blocking the sale of Coliseum naming rights. The Raiders countersued in July 1998, seeking to nullify the contract that obligates the team to remain in Oakland through the 2010 season. Barring a settlement, a trial is expected to be scheduled by the end of the year in Sacramento.

Meanwhile, the NFL plans to award an expansion franchise to Los Angeles or Houston in March. In a lawsuit filed in 1995, the Raiders claim they own territorial rights to the Los Angeles market. No trial date has been set in federal court in Los Angeles. The Raiders franchise was located in Los Angeles for 13 seasons before returning to Oakland in 1995.

Published: 2-24-1999


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