Mark Davis isn’t a villain. He’s a victim of selective indignation.
I’ll explain what I mean by that. But first, I want to explain why he acted in good faith and made the right decision to move the Raiders to Las Vegas.
For Davis, the Raiders are a business. He needs a new stadium that’s not an outdated multipurpose stadium. With this stadium, he can get the money to sign high-end free agents.
For years, Davis tried to come up with a deal to build a stadium in Oakland. He worked harder to keep the Raiders in Oakland than Oakland worked to keep the Raiders in Oakland. City and county officials always favored the A’s, and that’s understandable. The A’s play 81 home games a year — the Raiders play eight. The A’s are a better investment.
Oakland did not step up for the Raiders. At the last minute, Ronnie Lott put together a plan to build a stadium in the East Bay, but the NFL rejected it. What was Mark to do?
Pay for the stadium himself? That was Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ advice. Ross was the only NFL owner who voted against the Raiders relocation. Ross said NFL teams should finance their own stadiums, which is easy for him to say — he’s worth $7.4 billion. Davis is worth half of one billion. Stadiums cost more than half of one billion. They cost billions. Financing one by himself never was an option. Ross seems out of touch, or worse, mean-spirited.
What were Davis’ options? He couldn’t stay much longer in Oakland — he has only two one-year leases left at the Coliseum. He needs to leave for financial survival.
Here was Davis’ choice: Move the Raiders to Santa Clara and become the tenant of the 49ers, or move the Raiders to Las Vegas and build his own stadium for which taxpayers will contribute $750 million dollars.
No-brainer. Vegas is the best deal.
And Vegas isn’t that far away. Fans from Oakland still can hop on Southwest to see the Raiders. Remember, all those fans from LA used to fly to Oakland every weekend during the football season. The Raiders have a big fan base in Southern California. Soon, those fans will have a much shorter trip to watch their team. This is a sweet deal for them. Don’t they matter?
Now, let’s talk about “selective indignation.”
People around here are indignant with Davis and criticize him for leaving Oakland, for selling out Oakland — not that I agree. But these people don’t criticize Joe Lacob, the owner of the Warriors, for doing the same thing.
Unlike Davis, Lacob has a nice facility in Oakland which sells out every single game. And yet, Lacob happily will screw Oakland fans and take the Warriors to a whole new fan base — San Francisco — where he will charge more money for tickets and cause traffic problems all to assuage his big ego. It’s a very big ego — unlike Mark Davis’ normal-size ego.
So, why is Davis the bad guy? Selective indignation. People often select whom to be angry at for the wrong reasons. They are angrier with Davis, although Lacob deserves more indignation. He has no good reason to ditch Oakland.
Lacob is the one who wanted to move his franchise as soon as he got it. He declared his intention at his very first news conference. Lacob is the one who didn’t have to leave. Lacob is the one who has been extremely successful in Oakland. But Oakland isn’t chic enough for him. He wants to build a monument to himself in a bigger city.
Davis, who is being portrayed as a villain, just wants a stadium that isn’t awful. Wants a stadium he doesn’t have to share with a baseball team or another NFL team. Wants a stadium he can sell out. Even when the Raiders have been good, they have struggled to fill the Coliseum.
Davis’ position is reasonable. Lacob’s is not. But, the media characterizes Davis as a lowlife and praises Lacob as a great, forward-thinking owner. Selective indignation.
I have a theory where this comes from.
Ripping Davis is easy, because soon he will be gone. Reporters don’t need him anymore — don’t need his favors, his quotes, anything. Don’t have to face him.
So, they beat up on him to ingratiate themselves with the fan base. I call this propagandizing to the public. They want you, the fans, to like them. Reporters are trying to look like saints by standing up for the community and taxpayers at the expense of an owner they won’t have to do with business with in the future.
But, these same reporters won’t stand up for Oakland when it comes to the Warriors. They will have to face Lacob in San Francisco — they can’t afford to be outraged at him. Or worse, have him outraged at them. They save their outrage for Davis, the easy target, the one who won’t hit back.
Selective indignation at its most hypocritical.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at email@example.com.