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Raiders (and Chargers) take another step toward Los Angeles

The Raiders leaving Oakland could be the best thing to happen to the A's in a long time.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine tell your friend, "Hey, will you buy me a $50 lunch? I'd prefer to eat lunch with you, but if not, it's fine — I'll just go to the cafe next door and get my own food."

You'd probably tell your friend that no, but thanks — you'll keep your $50.

Bear with me on the odd metaphor, because it's basically what took place last night between the National Football League's Oakland Raiders and the City of Oakland. In a joint announcement published in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday evening, the Raiders and San Diego Chargers announced that they are looking into the possibility of a privately financed, shared stadium in the inner Los Angeles suburb of Carson.

This is a paragraph from the LAT article linked above:

The Chargers and Raiders will continue to seek public subsidies for new stadiums in their home markets, but they are developing a detailed proposal for a privately financed Los Angeles venue in the event they can't get deals done in San Diego and Oakland by the end of this year, according to the teams.

Again, to summarize, the Raiders are asking for public money in Oakland, but offering to build a stadium in the LA area on their own dime. Cool.

The fact that the Raiders have publicly announced their intention to build a stadium using zero public funds is a clear sign that they have little hope of getting said funds in Oakland. Again, why offer to build something yourself when there's a chance your current municipality will build it for you? It's a leverage ploy, sure, but it gains them nothing in the Bay Area. Oakland (or any other city) wasn't ever going to pass a tax measure to keep them, and still won't.

The leverage is still there because, of course, it would still be bad for Oakland to lose its NFL team. But to me, at least, the Raiders' public announcement of their pursuit of a private venue in LA makes their intentions and/or expectations quite clear: Oakland is not in their future because Oakland isn't coughing up any cash. Singlehandedly financing an NFL venue on the Coliseum site and sharing development revenue with the A's is a non-starter, but splitting the cost of a stadium in Carson just might work.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has stated repeatedly that she has no interest whatsoever in allowing the Raiders (or any team, for that matter) to continue to operate using a public subsidy. That's not to say, however, that there's no possibility of public funds being used for infrastructure improvements necessary to pull off a large-scale redevelopment surround a new sports venue in Oakland, as she stated in AN's interview with her in October, prior to her election.

The San Francisco Business Times reported yesterday that a deal for land at the Coliseum City project is contingent upon Alameda County and the City of Oakland playing ball together, so to speak. Though they quote Floyd Kephart of New City Development saying that Alameda County isn't currently at the table, the article includes a video of Mayor Schaaf explicitly stating that she has brought AlCo higher-ups on board with the project.

She'll need their cooperation regardless, but this could be the moment Lew Wolff has been waiting for. He hasn't ever shown much interest in the Coliseum City project specifically, only the concept of a new, large-scale development on Coliseum land. Should Coliseum City officially lose the Raiders as a prospective tenant (the Warriors' move to San Francisco is entirely official, pending an actual arena groundbreaking), it could be the Wolff/Fisher ownership group's chance to pounce once and for all.

As the site's sole tenant, Wolff would have the freedom to pursue the type of large-scale development that actually pencils out financially when it comes to financing a ballpark privately. Two teams, of course, is better than one, but one is better than none. The Raiders taking real, tangible steps to Los Angeles might just be a leverage move, but don't expect Schaaf and Oakland taxpayers to suddenly cave and give Mark Davis the help he wants.