The move to Las Vegas has caused such a rift in the nation that fans are browbeating each other, degrading, sending nasty emails, comments, tweets and all other forms of communication. Typically good, reasonable people are becoming crazy-eyed monsters just to defend their position in the battle. So what side are you on? The ugly truth about it is that you shouldn’t be on either. There’s a whole other side of this that is tragically ignored, and it’s the most glaring transgression of the whole situation.
Right now, you’re mad that it’s going to cost probably twice as much to move to Las Vegas as your city and county would have spent, you’re mad because it takes away from the City of Oakland as a whole. And most importantly, you’re mad that a team that you have supported financially, emotionally, spiritually, and in all other ways, is leaving you for the second and probably final time. There’s no Maverick to negotiate his way back anymore, and Mark Davis is certainly not interested in anything that those outside of the NFL’s highest ranks have to say. Except for the guys with the money, but your average fan doesn’t have a couple of billion dollars lying around to earn a place at the table. Since Mark Davis has the lowest net worth of any owner, maybe he feels like he was on the brink of standing in the soup line.
That’s ok; you can be mad about all of that. You have every right to be, and some of you may never be ok with it. When all’s said and done, there are bigger things at stake.
The NFL has a nasty habit of showing their markets how much they appreciate them by handing out a bill every year. You’re not paying for tickets or merchandise, parking, boosters, concessions, no, none of that. Regardless of your interest in football, you still have to pay even if you never set foot near a stadium. Even for teams that don’t relocate, expenses to keep them in town go through the roof. Who ends up paying for that? You’d think the NFL would take a little responsibility, they’re no longer a not-for-profit corporation, and frankly, they can afford it. And certainly, the owner of the franchise might take on a little bit of the burden. But who pays for it? The taxpayers. It begs the question, why do city officials allow this to happen to “their” teams? Cities, counties, the league and the franchise owners expect someone else to foot the bill for the privilege of having an NFL team. Not only are the ticket prices rising year after year, but everything else falls in line.
The “Fleecing of the Fans” by the NFL is easy to find. Take a look at Hamilton County in Ohio, where the Bengals reside alongside the MLB Cincinnati Reds. In 2013, it was reported that the county charged its residents nearly $35 million in football-related taxes. Not only did they have to come out of pocket, but the community suffered massive budget cuts to their public services, including $120 million to their schools. Owner Mike Brown and the Bengals organization stated that they funnel about $1 million per year in charitable donations back to the community. Brown, who inherited the team from his father in 1991, is worth $925 million. While it seems very thoughtful of Mr Brown to give back to the community, the math worked out to 2.8% of the annual $35 million that the taxpayers are charged. Add that to the cuts to both their school system and public health budgets and Hamilton County residents were hit in one way or another for $206.2 million PER YEAR. It seems like Mike Brown could do a little more with his annual salary of $2 million and the team’s revenues of $240 million. See the discrepancy?
In a 2012 lease revenue bond proposal, Alameda County obtained $122,815,000 in bonds. That money gets paid for by whom? Taxpayers. And when do those bonds mature? Not until 2025. That’s another eight years before the county is unshackled of that massive amount of debt for a team that no longer cared to be associated with them. And that’s just for building, repairs and maintenance of the Coliseum alone.
Since Mayor Libby Schaaf apparently can’t negotiate her way out of a paper bag, leaving a multi-billion dollar project in her hands was not the most responsible option. The city and county have been throwing good money after bad since the Raiders came back to town. Haphazard spending is the norm for State and Federal agencies, so this doesn’t come as a huge shock, but this scenario looks different than numbers on paper because it’s not just intangibles mentioned in a budget meeting that no one actually pays attention to, it’s a real, malleable thing that you can feel and see. Important when you’re paying so much for something.
Maybe the mayor will make something right for once and redirect all of the money that residents were spending on the team back into public funding, like schools, public health, educational and employment assistance, and law enforcement. But if they decide to just reabsorb the tax burden, Oakland folks will eventually see a break on property taxes and a little bit more of their paychecks back in their pockets.
So here it is. What you should be mad about is the NFL and Mark Davis having zero concern for where this team ends up. You should be mad about how much of your hard-earned cash you’ve had to pay just to maintain the bottom line for a club that has now abandoned you. As it stands, you’re mad about a tax bill that you will no longer have to pay. Oakland will see consistent financial relief over the next 20 or 30 years because a team that expects you to pay for their very existence will no longer be sending you a bill every year. It is a strong financial move for the Raiders organization but also benefits the bottom line of Oakland and Alameda County. It’s not only the ticket money that you watch drain out of your bank account every year when you purchase those seats; but it’s also the backend money that you don’t see until it’s tax time that hurts even more.
I love this team as much as anyone, but I have to say that I’m mad enough to say forget it, it’s over and done with, and I don’t have to give my money to anyone. Neither do you. Games are on TV, and they’re free. If you’re not interested in the team that’s on, turn the channel. Start watching some college football, or get interested in the CFL. Thank Davis and the NFL for unburdening you of this terrible weight that’s going to continue to drag you through the mud for decades to come. Since the deal is done, Raider Nation no longer has to be divided. Unity comes in mutual respect for one another and the players, as well as mutual disgust for a league and an owner that have stamped pictures of their smiling faces on a vacancy notice.
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