Even prior to Roger Goodell's public remarks last week about the NFL's desire to keep the Raiders in Oakland, there was a growing sense among civic leaders in the Bay Area that this was very much the league's intention. And following a visit from NFL exec Eric Grubman, the league's primary stadium point person, to Oakland last week with local municipalities, sources say that sentiment is stronger than ever.
Numerous ownership sources have indicated a strong desire to keep the Raiders in Oakland even if owner Mark Davis manages to secure the public funding in Las Vegas for his planned stadium there. There are strong reservations throughout the league about Davis' ability to get the 23 votes required for a franchise relocation even if his stadium plan continues to move forward. Oakland is viewed by many powerful owners as a far superior market for numerous reasons (location, population, per capita income, size of the TV market), and the Vegas deal is far from a slam dunk.
Other owners believe there is a deal that can be struck for a new stadium in Oakland, and league officials are expected to spend considerable time there through the season trying to aid in that process and checking on progress. While Davis remains focused on Vegas, the NFL is very much focused on Oakland and building a new stadium in the vicinity of the decrepit Coliseum the Raiders currently inhabit.
One source with knowledge of the situation said that Grubman already has another trip to the Bay Area planned as he continues the dialogue between him and a financial adviser who is coordinating the city of Oakland's stadium efforts. There is an expectation that the highest reaches of the league office and local politicians will stay in close contact throughout the process.
Some have already noted the irony that decades ago the NFL fought Davis' father, Al, over the ability to move the Raiders, but many NFL execs doubt Mark Davis would have the desire and wherewithal to engage in a potentially long legal battle as his father did, and the league has made it increasingly more difficult to move a team without NFL support since then. Davis is seeking $750 million in public finding for his new stadium in Las Veges.
"The municipalities in play (in Oakland) believe the NFL is very sincere about being willing to make the Raiders stay in Oakland if it needs to," said one source with knowledge of the situation. "That's the distinct impression they are getting from the league."
Grubman declined to comment for this report.