The City of Oakland has filed a federal antitrust and breach of contract lawsuit against the National Football League, the Raiders and each of the other 31 NFL clubs, claiming compensation for the “cartel” actions that have led to its home franchise relocating to a new stadium in Las Vegas.
Oakland City Council initially voted to authorise the lawsuit on July 24, with Attorney Barbara Parker yesterday (Tuesday) confirming that it has been filed at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
In March, the Raiders signed a lease deal with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority to build its new venue in Nevada. The deal was signed exactly a year after NFL owners gave the Raiders the green light to move to Las Vegas.
The stadium will have a capacity of 65,000 and is projected to cost $1.8bn (£1.43bn/€1.59bn) to build. It is hoped the venue will be ready in time for the 2020 NFL season.
While Oakland is not seeking to prevent the relocation, or keep the team, the lawsuit is looking to recover damages resulting from the Raiders’ “illegal move” to Las Vegas, including lost revenue, money that Oakland taxpayers invested in the Raiders and other costs.
In voting to approve the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas and boycotting Oakland in the marketplace for hosting a football club, the lawsuit states that NFL defendants violated federal antitrust laws. The suit also claims that the Raiders’ move violated the NFL’s own policies for team relocation.
Federal antitrust laws provide treble damages plus attorneys’ fees. The Raiders will pay out $378m as a relocation fee, money which will be shared by the other 31 clubs. The City said it is seeking a resolution for the maximum amount of damages available.
“The defendants brazenly violated federal antitrust law and the league’s own policies when they boycotted Oakland as a host city,” Parker said. “The Raiders’ illegal move lines the pockets of NFL owners and sticks Oakland, its residents, taxpayers and dedicated fans with the bill. The purpose of this lawsuit is to hold the defendants accountable and help to compensate Oakland for the damages the defendants’ unlawful actions have caused and will cause to the people of Oakland.”
The lawsuit states that the league has recently allowed NFL clubs to move even when the relocation is a clear violation of its relocation policies. It added: “Threats of relocation are a central part of the NFL’s practice of demanding public financing for new stadiums, which significantly increase team revenues and ticket prices.”
It also notes that NFL clubs will share around $1.47bn in relocation fees, with the Chargers and Rams having relocated to Los Angeles in recent years from San Diego and St. Louis, respectively. The statement outlining the lawsuit added: “The NFL’s demand for the public to bankroll new stadiums under threat of club relocation has pushed cities like Oakland out of the marketplace for professional football teams, caused skyrocketing ticket prices, and enriched the NFL owners.
“In violation of the antitrust laws, the NFL is using its cartel status to undermine competition and generate fortunes for themselves, all at a significant cost to taxpayers.”
The filing of the lawsuit casts further doubt over the Raiders’ short-term future in Oakland. The Raiders currently hold a year-to-year lease with Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority to play at the stadium it has called home since 1968, with no agreement in place for the 2019 season.
Image: Louis Briscese