OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The City of Oakland has filed a lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders and the National Football League over the team’s move to Las Vegas, the city attorney announced late Tuesday morning.
The federal antitrust and breach of contract lawsuit names the NFL, the Raiders and each of the other 31 NFL clubs as defendants.
According to the federal lawsuit, the defendants violated antitrust laws by voting to approve the Raiders move to Las Vegas and boycotting Oakland as a host city. The suit additionally claims that the Raiders’ move also violated the NFL’s own policies for team relocation.
City Attorney Barbara J. Parker issued a press release stating that she recommended – and the Oakland City Council authorized – filing the suit to recover damages resulting from the Raiders’ planned move to Las Vegas. Damages includes lost revenue, money that Oakland taxpayers invested in the Raiders and other costs.
Federal antitrust laws provide treble damages in addition to attorneys’ fees. Oakland will seek a resolution for the maximum amount of damages available.
However, the lawsuit will not ask the court to prevent the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas or keep the team in Oakland.
“The defendants brazenly violated federal antitrust law and the league’s own policies when they boycotted Oakland as a host city,” Parker said in the press release. “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.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf tweeted about the lawsuit shortly after it was announced.
Parker alleged that 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.
She charged that the NFL is violating antitrust laws by using its cartel status to undermine competition and generate fortunes for themselves, all at a significant cost to taxpayers.
Parker said she will file the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, with the assistance of the law firms of Berg & Androphy, and Pearson, Simon & Warshaw, which she said are nationally recognized antitrust lawyers.
She said the firms are working on a contingency basis, so their fees and costs will be paid solely from any recovery the city gets.
Jim Quinn, the lead attorney from Berg & Androphy, said, “The NFL has a long history of misusing its tremendous market power in violation of antitrust laws. This time the NFL defendants violated their own bylaws in their effort to cash in on the Raiders’ move.”
Quinn said, “Oakland is standing up to this unlawful and disloyal treatment by the league owners.”
Several Oakland city officials offered comment on the lawsuit Wednesday evening.
“The city has been screwed over twice by the Raiders,” said Oakland City Council member Larry Reid.
“It’s about the principle, but it’s also about the real financial cost of public services that we need to fund,” said council member Rebecca Kaplan. “And that’s why we’re suing for financial compensation.”
“Oakland has lost enough money to the Raiders and this lawsuit will be on a full contingency basis by the attorneys that have taken it up,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
The city is filing the suit alone. Alameda County and the Joint Powers Authority are not participating. Reid sits on both the Oakland City Council and the Joint Powers Authority.
“We certainly would’ve wanted the JPA and the county to be a part of this, but they chose not to be,” explained Reid. “So, the fight is ours. It’s not costing us any money and hopefully there’s a decision that’s in our favor.”
The suit could accelerate the timeline for the Raiders move elsewhere before the new stadium in Las Vegas is ready. The team had indicated to the JPA if the city filed suit they wouldn’t exercise the lease option for the 2019 season in the Coliseum.
“The Raiders gotta figure out what their options are,” said Reid. “If they’re going to play at the Coliseum in 2019 or whether or not they will explore the options that they’ve been looking at.”
Those options reportedly include either San Diego or Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara according to CBS Sports.
Griz Jones, founder of Raiders fan group Forever Oakland, says if the Raiders leave, the team should leave the name behind. Jones applauded the lawsuit as a win for the city of Oakland.
“For our people who have stood in the trenches it means the world,” said Jones. “And this will help Alameda and Oakland taxpayers with bond debt and [hopefully] future NFL football here.”
When asked what he thought of the team’s past threats to play elsewhere if the city filed the lawsuit, Quinn replied, “Well, the way they are playing, I don’t think Oakland really cares that much.”
KPIX 5 has reached out to the Oakland Raiders for comment on the legal action on Wednesday, but did not receive a response.