The city of Oakland filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Tuesday, one that's been rumored to be in the works for months, against the NFL, the Raiders and the 31 other teams in the league. The suit alleges that the NFL violated antitrust laws and its own procedures on team relocation when it approved the Raiders' plans to move to Las Vegas.
In October 2015, Eric Grubman, then an NFL executive vice president, stood in front of a crowd of Raider fans at the Paramount Theatre and assured them the league would give first priority to a new stadium proposal in Oakland.
"Our hope is for all the cities to find solutions to keep their teams healthy, in their markets, for the next 30 years, not for the next three years or the next three months," Grubman said then.
But the city alleges, within a few weeks of that assurance, Raiders owner Mark Davis was secretly negotiating with casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, and the NFL went on to ignore a viable, privately financed stadium proposal in Oakland in favor of the taxpayer-funded one in Las Vegas. The other NFL teams are accused of colluding with the league because they will receive a relocation fee from the Raiders.
The lawsuit isn't trying to prevent the Raiders from moving. Instead, it asks for the maximum amount of damages to recoup Oakland's investments in the team, which aren't specified in the filing. The city and Alameda County are still paying back the bonds to remodel the Coliseum for the Raiders in 1995. Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker is working with two well-known antitrust law firms on a contingency basis, so their fees would be repaid through any recovery the city receives.
"The Raiders' illegal move lines the pockets of NFL owners and sticks Oakland, its residents, taxpayers and dedicated fans with the bill," Oakland city attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement. "The purpose of this lawsuit is to hold the defendants accountable and help to compensate Oakland for the damages the defendants' unlawful actions have caused and will cause to the people of Oakland."
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also weighed in on the lawsuit in a tweet on Tuesday: "The NFL’s Billionaires Boys Club ditched Oakland out of sheer greed and left taxpayers with millions in unpaid stadium debt. Our community’s support and loyalty were met with nothing but bad faith. Today we're standing up for residents, taxpayers and fans."
Raiders owner Davis told ESPN Tuesday evening that the lawsuit was "meritless and malicious," but would add no further comment on the matter.
One thing that's not mentioned in the lawsuit, but which coalitions of Raider fans who have been advocating legal action over the past two years have raised as potentially in dispute, are the rights to the "Oakland Raiders" name, the shield logo, the team colors of silver and black, and even the NFL Films-composed anthem "The Autumn Wind" — all of which fans would like to retain for a potential future football franchise in Oakland.
Another unresolved item is where the Raiders will play until their Las Vegas stadium is ready, which won't be for at least one more season and possibly two. The team's current lease at the Oakland Coliseum ends this year. Although the Raiders have a lease extension ready to sign, Davis has told reporters in the past he wouldn't play in Oakland if the city was suing him. But there are not many NFL-standard stadiums available for a short-term rental. One possibility would be for the Raiders to share the 49ers stadium in Santa Clara, although that could be as difficult for Davis to stomach as staying in Oakland while the lawsuit makes its way through the courts.
The Associated Press contributed to this post.