Oakland Sues Raiders, NFL Over Move to Vegas

The city of Oakland is seeking triple monetary damages under U.S. antitrust law, accusing the team and the league of devising a $378 million payment, disguised as a “relocation fee,” to buy support for the move from the other team owners. The complaint claims the move also violates the NFL’s own relocation rules. The team will relocated to a new stadium (l.) in Las Vegas in 2020.

The city of Oakland is suing its hometown Raiders and the National Football League for damages, claiming the team’s decision to move to Las Vegas is illegal.

The relocation, which officially kicks off with the start of the 2020 season, is a violation of federal antitrust laws and the team’s contract with the city, according to a complaint filed in federal court.

The city isn’t seeking an injunction to stop the move. Rather it wants unspecified damages, tripled under U.S. law, to cover lost revenue and its “significant investment in the Raiders”.

The city asserts Raiders ownership paid its fellow NFL clubs a $378 million “relocation fee” in 2017 when they announced the move to Las Vegas, a payment designed to ensure the team owners endorsed the move, or so the complaint alleges.

As a result, Oakland, which declined to offer such “cartel payments,” as the suit terms them, was left in the cold, even though it had proposed to build a $1.3 billion stadium to keep the team.

“The defendants brazenly violated federal antitrust law and the league’s own policies when they boycotted Oakland as a host city,” City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a written statement. “The Raiders’ illegal move lines the pockets of NFL owners and sticks Oakland, its residents, taxpayers and dedicated fans with the bill.”

The Raiders and the NFL didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment, according to news reports.

The city contends the move also violates the NFL’s own relocation guidelines set in 1983 at the behest of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Those, which took effect after the Raiders and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum sued the NFL for antitrust violations to force the team’s move from Oakland to Los Angeles, require that teams prioritize their home markets and reject any sort of entitlement an owner may have to “relocate simply because it perceives an opportunity for enhanced club revenues in another location,” according to the filing.

“The Raiders, the NFL, and ultimately the vast majority of NFL clubs, were just stringing Oakland along as part of their collusive scheme to move the Raiders,” the complaint states.

St. Louis filed a similar complaint in Missouri state court in 2017 after the Rams formalized plans to move to Los Angeles. The city is seeking more than $1 billion in damages, claiming the league violated those same relocation policies.

The NFL has tried to move that case into private arbitration, but two state courts have ruled against it.