Editor's Note: The above video is from Oct. 17, 2016.
On a night of potentially epochal change in American political society and culture, it seems odd to rest one’s gaze on such a reductive issue as a hotel tax and its effect on the map of the National Football League, but there you go. It still beats being a pollster.
But in San Diego, the electorate came out aggressively and demonstrably against a hotel tax that would have funded a football stadium for the Chargers and their owner, Dean Spanos. On an issue that required 66.7 percent approval, the pro-stadium supporters couldn’t manage even 40, a repudiation so stinging that Spanos now must understand that his dream of a modern stadium is almost diametrically opposed to the wishes of his customers.
And why should you care about what happens to the Chargers? Because of the possibility that Spanos, rejected in San Diego and facing an objectionable future in Los Angeles at the knee of Rams owner Stan Kroenke, may cast his eyes and that of his team to the place that Mark Davis has already staked out – Las Vegas.
He hasn’t said so, to be sure, and even came out wishing Davis the best in his attempt to move the Raiders from Oakland to The Strip. But as we have learned over the last year, what NFL owners say and what they mean are very often two different things, and Las Vegas provides a solution to Spanos’ problem that his fellow owners might find more appealing than Davis.
Indeed, some people have whispered that Spanos would be keen on relocation to Las Vegas to get out from under the twin thumbs of Kroenke to the north and an electorate that doesn’t want to give him a billion dollars for his own use.
And the result of such a shift in his attention would leave Davis with two choices: Picking up the option to Los Angeles that Spanos likely would reject even though he is no more excited about being Kroenke’s pseudo-tenant than Spanos, or staying in Oakland with next to no chance for a new stadium in the foreseeable future.
This is a restatement of the basic equation of Las Vegas, complicated only by the hesitance of casino owner Sheldon Adelson to fulfill his promise to contribute $650 million to a new stadium, presumably in exchange for a piece of the team that moves in.
But there had been a level of hope among Chargers people that Tuesday’s vote would be much closer, at least close enough to make negotiations on a modified stadium plan possible. Now that seems gone, although some people think Spanos might go to the owners and ask for an extension on the Los Angeles option, and paying Davis for the privilege of doing so.
In other words, what happened in San Diego Tuesday did remarkably little to clear up the Raiders’ future, and may not have done much to clear up the Chargers’ future either. It was a clear protest vote against giving a billionaire a billion dollars, and there is something inspiring about that in any case, but understanding the future of Oakland’s football tam is no clearer – or for that matter, no more opaque – than it was on Monday night.
In short, as some might feel about the country in general today, we have gained no greater understanding of the Raiders’ future, except maybe that it has become more, not less complicated.