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Volume 25 No. 175

Franchises

The NFL needs to know where the Raiders will play by February to make the '19 schedule
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Raiders withdrew from a tentative deal to stay in Oakland for the '19 season, a day after the city "sued the team over its impending departure to Las Vegas," according to a front-page piece by Veklerov & Kawahara of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The move appeared to "fulfill the team’s threat to find somewhere else to play next year if the city filed suit." The team’s options include "sharing Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara with the 49ers, playing in a city such as San Diego that lacks an NFL team, and moving to Nevada ahead of schedule to a university facility." Each option "carries complications and downsides." Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority Exec Dir Scott McKibben said that a Raiders exec called him yesterday and "formally and officially pulled their proposal off the table." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the league "needs to know where the Raiders will play by February" to make the '19 schedule (S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/13).

WHERE TO GO? Raiders Owner Mark Davis yesterday said that he is "considering a variety of options about where the team will play next season." He added that he is "not even ruling out the possibility of the franchise remaining in Oakland for one more season despite the federal lawsuit." In DC, Mark Maske noted that represented a "softening of Davis’s previous stance that he would not play another season in Oakland if the city filed a lawsuit" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/12). Davis: "All options are on the table." In L.A., Sam Farmer notes Davis "wouldn’t rule" out such venues as Cal's Memorial Stadium, Levi’s Stadium or even SDCCU Stadium in San Diego. Davis said that he is "not interested in playing games in San Antonio." Farmer notes the "most logical option" would be staying in the Bay Area. Conceivably, that could mean "playing at California, Stanford, or at" AT&T Park. It is somewhat "less likely" the Raiders would play at Levi's Stadium, or that the league would "allow them to play in San Diego." If the Raiders were to "go to Las Vegas a year early and play for a year in a temporary venue, that could bleed off a lot of excitement there about the move, especially if the team were to play poorly" (L.A. TIMES, 12/13). CBSSPORTS.com's John Breech wrote Davis "absolutely loathes the idea of playing in Levi's Stadium." He has said that on "multiple occasions and likely wouldn't play there unless it was an absolute last resort" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/12). NFL.com's Jim Trotter tweeted that a source "suggested playing in Levi's Stadium could backfire on the Raiders by helping the city of Oakland in its lawsuit." San Diego-based KGB-FM's Cookie Randolph: "Are the Oakland Raiders coming to San Diego? ... Do you think San Diego would roll out the red carpet when the @Chargers come to town as the away team?" (TWITTER.com, 12/13).

RIGHT MOVE: A S.F. CHRONICLE editorial states that the "upshot of the lawsuit is spot on: that the Raiders and the NFL ignored the league’s relocation guidelines and did not otherwise play fair in stacking the deck for Las Vegas." However, there is "no law on the state or federal books that requires a business to act in good faith in choosing where to house its operation." NFL bylaws "contain detailed guidelines that teams must meet before moving to a new market, with a requirement that it 'work diligently and in good faith' to try to stay in its home territory." It expressly "prohibits a franchise from granting 'exclusive negotiating rights' to a community outside its current market -- such as the Raiders effectively did with Las Vegas." It is "not a clear-cut legal matter, but it’s an argument that needs to be tested in court not only for Oakland’s sake, but for the interests of other cities that subsidize professional football to even greater degrees" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/13). SI's Michael McCann: "Are NFL owners running an illegal cartel? The is the critical question in City of Oakland v. Raiders" (TWITTER.com, 12/13).

THE NEW NORMAL: Raiders QB Derek Carr said of the constant changes within in the organization, "It's crazy, man. My brother (David) warned me about stuff like this, because he played for 12 years. I was like, 'No, man, when you get here it's just rainbows and butterflies because you made it to the NFL.' All of a sudden, you get new friends every year. I've had like 27 different people in the locker next to me in five years. It just shows you how tough this business is." He added, "Not only in the last five years, but in the last 12 months, there has been a lot of turnover." Carr on the possibility of not playing in the Coliseum in '19 said, "It's ours. It's been fun." He said the fact that the Christmas Eve game against the Broncos "could be the last" in Oakland is "crazy." Carr: "But when that time comes, we will enjoy it" (ESPN.com, 12/13). Pro Football Talk tweeted, "Unless there's a clear deal in place for the Raiders to play in Oakland next year, the Christmas Eve home finale vs. Denver could be a cross between the last game played by the original Browns in Cleveland and 'Disco Demolition' night in Chicago" (TWITTER.com, 12/12).

Under Sarver (l), the Suns have not been able to qualify for the postseason since '10
Photo: SUNS

Suns President & CEO Jason Rowley indicated that the team "has never threatened to leave the Valley and is committed to making a deal work in downtown Phoenix" following the Phoenix City Council delaying a vote of a deal with the club to renovate Talking Stick Resort Arena, according to Jessica Boehm of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Rowley said, "The reality is that we have made zero threats of going to any other city. We are focused on this town, this city, downtown Phoenix and getting our deal done." He said that Suns Owner Robert Sarver's goal "with 100 percent certainty ... is to get a deal done in Phoenix." However, Rowley "would not confirm whether the Suns are currently exploring other cities and instead repeated that a deal in Phoenix is the priority" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 12/13). The vote was delayed after the council failed to come up with the needed votes for approval. Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams and two council members asked for the delay and the vote be moved to Jan. 23 after it became clear there were not the necessary five votes for approval on the eight-member body. The deal includes a $230M arena renovation and creates a $37.5M future repair fund (Mike Sunnucks, THE DAILY).

WILL PHOENIX OBLIGE? In Phoenix, Kent Somers writes the city should call Sarver's "bluff" after his "reported hints that he could take his basketball and leave town if he doesn’t receive a refurbished arena." In 14 years as owner, Sarver has "supervised the decimation of a once-proud franchise and made millions in the process." What he has "failed to do is produce a product that anyone wants to watch, much less cheer for." The 4-24 Suns "haven’t been to the playoffs" since '10 and "haven’t won more than 24 games" since '14. So for Sarver it "takes mixture of arrogance and ignorance to ask taxpayers to pay" $150M of the estimated $230M cost of "renovating the arena." He has "built no equity with this community or with Suns fans." Hinting about the "possibility of moving the team only hurts his effort, but he apparently lacks the self-awareness to realize that" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 12/13). Also in Phoenix, E.J. Montini writes the city "probably will try to sweeten the terms a little" by the Jan. 23 vote and "try to make the deal seem good for Phoenix and taxpayers and Arizona and so on, but it will be a really hard sell." The reason for that is "simple." Montini: "Robert Sarver is no Jerry Colangelo" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 12/13).

REPLACEMENT OPTIONS: Las Vegas and Seattle were mentioned as potential relocation sites for the Suns, and in Las Vegas, Prince & Bradley note Sarver's reported interest in the city marks the "first time an NBA franchise has used Las Vegas to get a sweeter deal" on an arena in their own city. However, "unlike Seattle, Las Vegas has an NBA-ready venue: T-Mobile Arena." There is a "winding road until the NBA hits Las Vegas" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 12/13). In Seattle, Alex Iniguez writes it is "certainly possible this is nothing more than a political game and Sarver doesn’t actually plan to move the Suns" (SEATTLE TIMES, 12/13).

The Dodgers have become the first pro team client of Boston Biomotion, a N.Y.-based sports and health tech startup. Boston Biomotion’s Proteus System offers what the company bills as the first-ever 3D resistance training system, providing strength training while limiting strain on joints and tendons and also simulating aquatic therapy. The system is then connected to an extensive data and analytics platform. Former MLBer Chris Capuano is an investor in Boston Biomotion, which participated last spring in the startup competition at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. “We’ve made baseball in particular a big target for this technology, and working with the Dodgers is an important validation for us,” said Boston Biomotion CEO Sam Miller.

Concerns intensified following several fan incidents during the Dec. 2 Chargers-Steelers game
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

A recent poll found that there is "broad concern" among Steelers fans about their safety during night games at Heinz Field, according to Adam Bittner of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. Data from polling company CivicScience comes after a "pair of videos surfaced on social media showing confrontations in the stands" during the Dec. 2 "SNF" game against the Chargers. Just 45% of 3,704 people queried in one poll said that they "feel safe at night games." That is only slightly more than the 41% who said that they "don’t feel safe, while 14% "weren’t sure." Sixty-two percent of respondents said that night games at the stadium are "less safe than day games." A majority of 52% said that videos of confrontations at the Chargers game "accurately reflect the environment for night games." Just 36% said that they do not, while 12% "were unsure." More than half of respondents, 53%, said that the videos "make them less likely to attend a night game," while 43% said that they were "as likely." Much fan feedback cited alcohol consumption "above all others for the problems at the stadium" (POST-GAZETTE.com, 12/12).

The Heat unveiled their "Sunset Vice" collection yesterday as part of Nike's Earned Edition uniforms, marking the "first time an NBA team will wear an entire uniform that's laser fuchsia, a color that's close to pink," according to Anthony Chiang of the MIAMI HERALD. The Heat will wear the jerseys in "three home games" against the Raptors (Dec. 26), Cavaliers (Dec. 28) and T'Wolves (Dec. 30). Heat Exec VP & CMO Michael McCullough said that the team initially had "some trepidation" about creating the jerseys. McCullough: "But the excitement outweighed it. It ended up being such a unique look, and really a Miami-kind of look." Chiang notes the "Sunset Vice" jerseys "drew mixed reactions from Heat players." F Udonis Haslem said, "Pink is not my color." The jerseys are the third uniform of the Heat's Vice campaign, which "began last season." The first jersey, released last year, is "white with pink, black and powder blue accents." The other Vice Edition jerseys are black (MIAMIHERALD.com, 12/12). Heat C Bam Adebayo said of the jerseys, "I like them. We're going to go out there and look like some cheerleaders, though." F Josh Richardson: "We shouldn't have problems turning it over to the other team, we'll be bright." G Dwyane Wade said, "Wow ... they're colorful. It was a surprise to all of us, very different" (South Florida SUN SENTINEL, 12/13).

EARNED, NOT GIVEN: In Portland, Sean Meagher noted the Trail Blazers yesterday also "unveiled new 'Earned' uniforms," which "closely resemble the previously released 'City' edition unis, reading Rip City across the chest with the black sash over the all red jersey" (Portland OREGONIAN, 12/13). NBCSPORTSNORTHWEST.com wrote the Trail Blazers' jerseys are "absolute fire." While many teams have "selected to wear" their Earned Edition jerseys on Christmas Day, the Trail Blazers have "decided to dub their new wardrobe" against the Warriors on Dec. 29 (NBCSPORTSNORTHWEST.com, 12/12).