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The Raiders, L.A.'s third team by default, still get a piece of the Southland pie

The Raiders, L.A.'s third team by default, still get a piece of the Southland pie
Raiders owner Mark Davis, center, meets with Raiders fans in Las Vegas. (John Locher / Associated Press)

When the Chargers announced they were moving to Los Angeles two years ago, they did so with a slogan ridiculed almost as much as their ill-fated new logo, which was abandoned within 24 hours.

“Fight for L.A.”

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It was in Dean Spanos’ letter announcing the team’s move from San Diego and FightForLA.com is still the website the Chargers use for people wanting to buy season tickets.

“Fight for LA?” one Raiders executive texted me at the time. “We already won that fight.”

The Raiders wanted to move back to Los Angeles three years ago but came in third behind the Rams and Chargers in a three-team race to decide which two would get to call L.A. home again. While they came up short they did the next best thing in announcing they would move to Las Vegas in 2020.

When the Raiders move into their new $2-billion stadium next summer, they will effectively become Los Angeles’ third NFL team and arguably its most popular.

While Raiders officials won’t publicly step on the toes of Los Angeles’ two NFL teams, they are stomping on them behind closed doors as they market the Raiders in Los Angeles and Southern California.

Tucked inside an outdoor shopping center 10 minutes south of the Las Vegas Strip sits the Raiders Preview Center. While the team’s new home is under construction, the two-story building offers fans a look at the history of the Raiders as well as a glimpse into the future. One of Al Davis’ signature white satin jackets can be seen by visitors as they walk through the glass doors while a television on a wall plays highlights of the Raiders’ 13-year run in Los Angeles. There are game-worn jerseys of Marcus Allen and Lyle Alzado in a glass case as well as pictures of the Raiders playing at a sold-out Memorial Coliseum. The Raiders’ three Super Bowl trophies and championship rings are also on display, including the one from Super Bowl XVIII, which remains Los Angeles’ only Super Bowl win.

Behind a locked door only visible to prospective season-ticket buyers who make an appointment is a model of the Las Vegas stadium and an interactive video board that not only breaks down ticket prices but also travel times and distance to the stadium. For example, a Raiders representative showed me on a touchscreen that Los Angeles is a 45-minute flight to Las Vegas or a four-hour drive. I was told once I landed at McCarron International Airport, it would be a six-minute drive to the stadium or a 14-minute drive if I flew on a private jet to Henderson Executive Airport, which is close to where the Raiders’ training facility is being built. I was told how long the drive would be to the stadium from whatever hotel I booked for the weekend. If I was staying at Caesars Palace, it would be a 10-minute drive to the stadium as opposed to a five-minute drive or a 10-minute walk if I was staying at the Mandalay Bay.

“There’s a substantial portion of our buyers who reside in Southern California,” said one Raiders executive. “We expected that to be the case and through the sales process that has been fulfilled.”

When the Raiders begin the 2020 season in Las Vegas, the expectation is that one-third of their season-ticket holders will be from California with half that figure being from Los Angeles. They expect many more from the area to buy single-game tickets and make the drive or flight to Las Vegas. In addition to selling season tickets to fans in Los Angeles, the Raiders continue to operate a Raider Image team store at the Universal CityWalk and will continue to broadcast all their games on the radio in the Southland as well as have all their preseason games televised in L.A.

Time will tell which team will win the fight for L.A. but so far the team that was blocked from returning isn’t letting that stop it from fighting for a piece of the city they once called home.

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UFC president Dana White told me before UFC 235 in Las Vegas that he’s not sure when Brock Lesnar will return to the octagon but would like to see him fight Jon Jones or Daniel Cormier at some point this year, with his preference being Cormier because “I want to make that man happy before he retires.”

“Brock wants to fight, but he’s got some obligations right now with the WWE,” White said. “He’s one of those guys when it’s time he’ll call me. It depends on when he calls. When he’s ready to go we’ll figure out who’s next, whether it’s Jones or Cormier. I know Cormier really wants that fight.”

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If the Lakers miss the playoffs you can look at a multitude of reasons why, but one of the biggest, outside of injuries, is their penchant for giving up big leads. When they blew a 12-point lead in the third quarter on Friday to Milwaukee it was the seventh time this season they have lost after having a double-digit lead in the second half. That’s the second most in the league and crushing for a team that’s three to four games out of a playoff spot.

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As much as the Dodgers wanted Bryce Harper and were willing to give him the highest average salary per year in baseball, they simply were not willing to give him a 13-year, $330-million guaranteed contract with a no-trade clause. That level of commitment is hard to find in sports and even harder to find in Hollywood, and the Dodgers were smart not to agree to a partnership they knew they wanted to get out of after a couple of years.

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The Galaxy unveiled a statue of David Beckham on Saturday that caused many fans to wonder why Landon Donovan wasn’t honored first. While Donovan probably deserved to get the first statue, there’s no doubt he and Robbie Keane will be honored with statues at the newly created Legends Plaza outside of Dignity Health Sports Park in thenear future. If Donovan feels slighted, he’s not alone among L.A. legends who had to wait to be honored. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor had to look at Oscar De La Hoya’s statue outside of Staples Center for years before they finally got their own.

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