Al Davis decided yesterday he can't go home again.
Davis, the inscrutable owner of the Los Angeles Raiders, shocked the pro football world one more time when he announced he'll stay in Los Angeles for 20 years in return for a $145 million deal that includes a renovated Los Angeles Coliseum.
The deal is still contingent on an satisfactory environmental impact report on the Coliseum renovation and the ability of the private manager of the Coliseum, Spectacor Limited Partnership, get the financing. No publicfunds are involved.
In any case, Spectacor paid Davis $10 million yesterday, which he keeps even if the deal falls through unless it falters because of environmental problems. In 1987, the suburb of Irwindale paid Davis $10 million, which he kept when that deal collapsed.
Davis said it was a "tough" and "emotional" decision to chose Los Angeles over Oakland. "Los Angeles kept us here on its own merits,' Davis said.
Describing the negotiations, he said, "I realized that we were almost operating like the Middle East, because day to day, and hour to hour, every minute there's a new crisis in the negotiations."
It was six months ago today that Davis announced he would return to Oakland if a $602 million deal was approved by city and county officials.
The deal was approved, but it created a political firestorm in Oakland. It was eventually scaled back to $400 million and then scrapped for a new deal that included $60.5 million to renovate the Oakland Coliseum and $31.9 million loan.
There was much speculation Davis would take that deal and as recently as June 17, Richard J. Riordan, a member of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, "It looks like they're going to Oakland."
But Davis came up with one more surprise by making the deal with Los Angeles.
The city of Los Angeles also dropped a $58 million lawsuit it had filed against the Raiders. Davis also keeps $10 million the Coliseum Commission alleged Davis owed it for cash advances and rent credits.
In Oakland, Mayor Lionel Wilson said, "What must be, must be, that's all."
Wilson backed the unpopular original deal that may have helped cost him his office. He finished third and didn't make the two-man runoff in the mayoral election earlier this year.
Don Perata, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors' chairman, said: "We never gave up. The fans should appreciate that. We gave it our best shot."
He said he wouldn't criticize Davis because Oakland initiated the contact. "He didn't lead Oakland down the garden path. I wish Al Davis well."
Not all NFL owners are totally convinced this is the final chapter of the Raider story.
When John Cooke, the executive vice president of the Washington Redskins was told the Raiders are staying in Los Angeles, he said, "For how long?"
The wounds from Davis' bitter court fight to move from Oakland in 1982 haven't healed, either.
Wellington Mara, the owner of the New York Giants, said, "I'd rather not make any comments on Al Davis, not for a family newspaper."
Oakland now is likely to jump back into the expansion derby where it will join Baltimore and St. Louis as the three cities that lost teams in the 1980s that will vie for new teams along with several new cities including the Carolinas and Memphis.
Mara said, "My personal feeling is that we had an obligation to both those cities [Baltimore and Oakland], but I'm not on the expansion committee."
He left out St. Louis because the league approved the move of the Cardinals from St. Louis to Phoenix.
Mara added he'd be inclined to follow the recommendation of the committee, which holds its next meeting Friday in New York, but is still in the preliminary stages of its work.
Art Modell, the owner of the Cleveland Browns, who's on the committee, said, "Oakland is probably in the same category with St.Louis and Baltimore although not necessarily in that order."
But Modell said he didn't view the cities as "old" and "new."
"They're all basically new," he said. "St. Louis is building a stadium Baltimore is committed to one. The landscape has changed so dramatically over the years that there are no old cities."
Fran Murray, the head of the St. Louis expansion group, said, "We'll let our application stand on its merits."
Herbert Belgrad, the head of the Maryland Stadium Authority, echoed a similar theme as he said Baltimore has to make the best presentation regardless of what other cities are in the race. "We're leaving no stone unturned," he said.
But Belgrad said he thinks Oakland lost ground by failing to get the Raiders back and even questioned how strongly Oakland would seek an expansion team.
"They're going to have some baggage after their abortive attempt to get the Raiders back. There's a question of whether the political leadership is able to make commitments. For whatever reason, the Raider deal fell through and that's something that has to be explained before Oakland is in the same position they were before," he said.