Much is being made of Hall of Fame safety and 49eraider (cq) Ronnie Lott and his attempt to buy the land upon which the Oakland Coliseum Complex currently squats. He is being painted as the city's last best option for keeping the Raiders where they are, and hey, publicity is never bad unless the word "indictment" appears in the first paragraph.
But there's a huge and gaping hole in the story that people keep conveniently forgetting in all this, and here, because I care for you all like children, it is.
Ronnie Lott doesn't own the football team, and the guy who does, Mark Davis, doesn't want to be in Oakland. At all.
Now nobody on the decision-making train – Davis, Lott, Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf, et. al. – is impolite enough to say this. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has gasbagged his way through a statement saying the Raiders "belong" in Oakland.
But talk is less than cheap, and here are the facts:
FACT THE FIRST: Jerry Jones has said the NFL should be in Las Vegas, he was the undisputed whip hand in the St. Louis Rams going to Los Angeles, and Davis has planted his flag in Nevada in hopes of diplomatic recognition.
FACT THE SECOND: Schaaf and the city pols talk Raiders not with Davis but with an intermediary named Larry McNeil, an indication that Davis has already cut ties with the East Bay.
FACT THE SECOND: Las Vegas and the state of Nevada have already rolled over on the $750 million hotel tax squeeze that Sheldon Adelson, the lead stadium developer in Vegas, said he needed to go ahead with the project.
FACT THE THIRD: NFL owners like money.
FACT THE FOURTH: NFL owners also like people who need the NFL because the league enjoys turning a request for a favor into a vise.
FACT THE FIFTH: There is no evidence that even after the San Diego Chargers lose their stadium proposal at the ballot box in November that Dean Spanos wants to take the team to Las Vegas by undercutting Davis.
FACT THE SIXTH: Even if Spanos did, Davis could still exercise his option to join Rams owner Stan Kroenke in Inglewood – the option Spanos would have to decline after San Diego tells him to cut bait. And the NFL cannot renege on that deal . . . well, not without being taken to court and losing.
In fact, the only way Davis would return to Oakland is if the other owners voted to keep him in Oakland out of spite or an attempt to starve him out – an interesting concept given the fact that NFL teams make the kind of money that shames entire continents. It could even use the enticement of having Davis trade access to Las Vegas for controlling interest in the franchise – "you get the vote if you become a minority owner." In that case, Davis has a choice to make – weak and in Oakland, or weaker still but in a place he clearly prefers.
In none of these scenarios does Ronnie Lott factor, no matter how noble his motives might be. In greater likelihood, the Lott negotiations are a real estate deal and nothing more.
Now maybe he sees a stadium for some as-yet-undesignated NFL team looking to escape its own self-created hell, or an expansion team. Anything, and let us make this clear, anything is possible.
But this much is sure. The NFL doesn't care about cities of Oakland's size, but it does care about owners. It certainly wants owners with a lot more money than Mark Davis can command, and the lingering lesson of Los Angeles is that the owners don't dislike Davis as much as they dislike the thickness of his wallet.
So Ronnie Lott is talking about the Coliseum. He may even get it. But that's literally parsecs from him being the Raiders' next landlord, let alone being the Raiders' next managing general partner. In other words, he is not a power broker here, but a guy with an interest.
If that impresses you, great. Let a thousand rhododendrons bloom. It does not, however, impress the people who decide the geography of the National Football League. And it never ever will.