OAKLAND — The Raiders are considering a move to Los Angeles. The last time we reported such news was well more than 30 years ago, yet when the team’s more devoted and shall-we-say experienced fans describe the event, it sounds as though they still may be in need of family counseling.
“When the Raiders moved to Los Angeles, it was like a divorce,” Cynthia from Watsonville (speakers were not asked to spell their full names) said at a public hearing hosted by the National Football League in downtown Oakland on Nov. 12. “One parent went off to be a star. The other parent stayed here with the kids.”
“It was like watching your girlfriend dating a really good-looking guy,” said Mike Umphenour, who lives in Windsor along with his alter-ego, Dark Raider.
“I felt like a jilted lover,” admitted longtime diehard Larnell Madison.
Should they be booking another therapy session? The NFL’s bid to return to the vast metropolis of Los Angeles is complicated and fraught and fluid. What we know for sure is this: The league wants a team or two in LA. St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke drew up a plan to move his team to a site in Inglewood. The Raiders and the San Diego Chargers have teamed up to offer a competing plan for a venue in Carson. The NFL has asked the three potentially victimized cities to submit detailed proposals sweetening the pot by Dec. 28, a task that sounds all but impossible for a cash-strapped municipality like Oakland.
In the meantime, some Raiders fans are experiencing a nauseating case of déjà vu.
“I feel like I’m living the nightmare again,” said Ricky Ricardo, owner of Ricky’s Sports Theatre and Grill, for decades the undisputed war bunker of Raiders fanatics.
For a younger generation of those fans, “Los Angeles Raiders” are just words that used to be stitched onto Ice Cube’s ball caps. They may remember the team’s emotional return to Oakland in 1995, but not the original separation, an event that devastated the East Bay.
Davis announces intent
It was in 1979 that then-owner Al Davis, who had helped put Oakland on the map after taking over an obscure AFL team in 1963 and building it into an iconic brand, first announced his intent to relocate the Raiders to Los Angeles. Davis wanted a series of stadium improvements that included upgrades to the locker room, PA system and press box and, most important, the installation of luxury suites. Cost was estimated at $4-10 million.
The Coliseum Commission claimed it had no money to offer, and negotiations ended in February of 1980.
Enter the Los Angeles Coliseum, the massive and venerable stadium in South-Central LA. Recently abandoned by the Rams, who had moved down the freeway to Anaheim, the commission that oversaw that coliseum offered $18 million in improvements, plus $5 million advanced to the Raiders. Davis leaped at the offer, or tried to.
On March 10, 1980, NFL owners voted 22-0 at their annual meeting not to allow the Raiders to move, with five teams abstaining (including the 49ers and Rams) and the Raiders not participating. Davis announced he would defy the vote, pushing everyone into a legal quagmire that would take more than three years to resolve.