Several reports yesterday indicated that the Raiders were
close to an announcement that they were moving back to Oakland,
setting off a flurry of "no comments" and denials. KNBR radio in
San Francisco was the first to report that the Raiders would move
back. On his KNBR show, former Raiders coach John Madden said
,"It's closer now than it's ever been. It's going to happen, and
it's going to happen today" (KNBR, 6/21). Sources said that if
the decision is indeed final, it would be because Raiders Owner
Al Davis "became extremely concerned that construction of a new
L.A. stadium ay Hollywood Park would not be completed by '97,
forcing him to spend three years in the L.A. Coliseum (Plaschke &
Springer, L.A. TIMES, 6/22). In the East Bay, the OAKLAND
TRIBUNE reports that "throughout the day, East Bay officials
exchanged drafts of a letter of intent with [Davis], tweaking the
language to satisfy the Raiders and themselves" (Li, Staats &
Ronningen, OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 6/22).
DOES ANYONE KNOW ANYTHING? NFL spokespersons said "no
final decision had been made," and Davis told the AP that
"he could not say for sure what was happening." One league
official said Davis "was struggling with a very difficult
decision and might not know which way he's going from one
minute to the next" (Timothy Smith, N.Y. TIMES, 6/22).
WHO'S SAYING WHAT? In L.A., Plaschke & Springer write,
"Al Davis has decided to move the Raiders back to Oakland,
but the deal will not be finalized until legal details are
worked out" (L.A. TIMES, 6/22). In Toronto, Gary Picknell
writes, "Oakland is preparing for a welcome-home
celebration" (TORONTO SUN, 6/22). L.A. TIMES column header:
"Raiders move north is a definite maybe" (L.A. TIMES, 6/22).
USA TODAY header: "Oakland, be prepared for more
disappointment" (USA TODAY, 6/22). In Baltimore, Vito
Stellino reports Davis is either close to moving, "or he's
using his former coach, John Madden, to give him leverage in
his talks with [L.A.] officials" (Baltimore SUN, 6/22).
Header over SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS piece: "Remember: Davis
has played this game before" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 6/22).
John Czarnecki of the "NFL on Fox" called it "a last minute
ploy": "My gut tells me Al will stay." NewSport's Fred
Edelstein: "I spoke with the highest echelons of the NFL
(Wednesday), and Al Davis' spin to them was, 'I have no deal
with anybody'" (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 6/22). CNN's Nick
Charles: "From all reports, it looks like the Raiders are
going long and deep back to Oakland." Former Raider/Fox NFL
analyst Howie Long: "I don't know whether it's a reality or
not or a ploy at the last minute to coax along the Hollywood
Park people. Who the heck knows?" CNN's Danny Sheridan:
"This will give him a home field advantage second to none in
the NFL, and you certainly don't get that in laid-back L.A.
Number two is obviously financial incentives. He'll be
guaranteed in ticket sales $2.5 million for every home game,
plus approximately $85 to $90 million in stadium
renovations. And lastly, several minority partners have
told Al, 'If you don't move back to Oakland, I want to be
bought out.' That's also a considerable amount of money.
It's a great move for the NFL and a great move for the
Raiders" ("Sports Tonight," 6/21).
NETWORK REAX: If the Raiders leave L.A., it leaves the
No. 2 media market without an NFL team. Both NBC Sports
President Dick Ebersol and Fox Sports President David Hill
declined comment, but Fox spokesperson Vince Wladika said
"it's a league matter." TNT analyst Pat Haden: "The upside
for the networks is they'll get to televise more games in
Los Angeles, because they were hampered by local blackouts
from non-sellouts. But the league still has to have a team
in Los Angeles" (USA TODAY, 6/22).
IF THEY DO LEAVE: If the Raiders do leave, the L.A.
TIMES' Plaschke & Springer write that the league "intends to
bring one existing and one expansion team to the area, but
only after construction begins on a modern stadium that
would be attractive to potential owners" (L.A. TIMES, 6/22).
In Seattle, Laura Vecsey writes, "Yesterday, the Seahawks-
to-L.A. rumor mill was at full-tilt boogie, now that Al
Davis might be reversing himself and heading back up the
[CA] coast" (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 6/22).