Davis dangles Raiders, but is he ready to move?

April 06, 1995|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Sun Staff Writer

If this is spring, then it must be time for Los Angeles to worry about the Raiders.

The perpetually dissatisfied team, which has threatened to move so many times that even potential suitors are wary, is at it again. And Baltimore is again on the list.

The team's year-to-year lease at the Los Angeles Coliseum has expired, and the team is being coy about whether it will be back next year even as the league tries to schedule next year's games. Both Baltimore and Oakland, Calif., have made offers to lure the team.

But team owner Al Davis' history of threatening to move has some in Baltimore suspicious that they may be used for leverage. Last year, Davis met with Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who is trying to bring a team to Baltimore. Other leaders of the Baltimore effort have kept in touch with Raiders officials.

The team is seeking league assistance in building a new stadium in Los Angeles. Developers have proposed coupling the stadium with Hollywood Park racecourse, and the league has offered to schedule some Super Bowls there to help make the project work. But negotiations have faltered over the amount of league assistance Davis wants.

Meanwhile, Oakland officials have continued to press the team to move back. The team played in Oakland before a move to L.A. in 1982, a relocation bitterly opposed by the NFL. The incident eventually led to a landmark lawsuit that cast doubt over the league's ability to control franchise relocations.

And the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission is planning to upgrade the stadium, including adding sky boxes, in an effort to keep the Raiders.

"Even though we do not have a contract with them, we have a line of communication," said commission member Margaret Farnum.

She said the commission is hopeful of keeping the team, but "I'm sure [Davis] is considering his options."

She said she doubts he will give up the lucrative market, especially if the Rams leave nearby Anaheim for St. Louis, giving the Raiders' sole possession of the L.A. market. The Rams' move, rejected last month by the owners, will be reconsidered next week at a special meeting, and negotiations have moved the two sides closer to agreement.

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and several team owners have said the league cannot afford to lose both teams from the nation's second-biggest TV market, signaling a fight if the Rams are allowed to leave and the Raiders try to move again.

Raiders spokesman Al LoCasale would not discuss the team's scheduling or plans, other than to say, "At this point there is nothing certain. We're in a listening mode."

Davis has privately expressed interest in Baltimore, where public funding is in place for a new stadium, according to people familiar with the team's thinking. But there is both skepticism and hopefulness about his intentions.

"He's going to raise false hopes and then nothing is going to happen," said one fellow team owner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Another NFL source said Davis also tried last year to get the league to tentatively schedule Raiders home games in several sites and allow the final pick to be made later, but the league balked. "This is Al's way of sending the message that he's thinking of moving," the source said.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined to comment on the scheduling of Raiders games, saying: "We'll let the Raiders speak for themselves."

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