This Raiders relocation drama could turn out to be a blessing for the NFL

At the start of Super Bowl week, casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson said he no longer would help the team relocate. (Feb. 1, 2017)


The Raiders’ plan to move to Las Vegas is looking more fragile and flimsy by the day.

Super Bowl week started with casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson saying he no longer would be helping the Raiders relocate from Oakland. That wasn’t a huge shock, because the Raiders already intended to forge on without him, relying instead on investment bank Goldman Sachs to help them finance their new stadium.

But on Tuesday, a source familiar with the negotiations told The Times that Goldman Sachs also was pulling out, and wouldn’t come back to the table without a spot for Adelson.


That was a seismic shift. Suddenly, having all the loose ends tied by March for an NFL vote seems improbable.

Los Angeles spent two decades watching this dance, with sure-thing stadium plans springing up and collapsing at a comically predictable rate. Often, they died and were resurrected multiple times, and that includes Inglewood. Why shouldn’t it be the same in Las Vegas?

That’s not to say that this setback for the Raiders means they won’t move, or that this situation will take another 20 years to untangle. But this was not going to be a frictionless process, not with the Raiders trying to make a favorable deal in an insider’s town where the house always has the edge.

Keep in mind, the Nevada Legislature already has approved $750 million in public financing for a stadium, money that would be generated by a statewide hotel tax. The NFL won’t walk away easily, especially in an era when public money is increasingly difficult to secure.

This is a game of poker, and there are more cards to be flipped. The Raiders could wind up working with another investment bank, another big-money Las Vegas backer — there are more than one — or patching things up and coming back to the bargaining table with Adelson and/or Goldman Sachs.

Regardless, this is an awkward sideshow when the NFL was hoping the spotlight would be entirely on Super Bowl LI in Houston. That’s more relocation drama, cropping up at the wrong time, for a league that cannot seem to put it to rest.

However, this could be a blessing for the NFL, because it has a chance to pump the brakes on a third relocation in less than 1 1/2 years. Even if the process had gone smoothly, the plan called for the Raiders to play the 2017 and ’18 seasons in Oakland. That would be like a couple living together for two years after their divorce.

With so many unanswered questions, how are the Raiders going to fill in all the blanks between now and March in such a way that at least three-quarters of NFL owners feel secure enough to move ahead in an untested market?

As for the franchise’s staying in Oakland for the long haul, there’s not a deal on the table at this point that’s appealing to the team or the league.

There’s another interesting wrinkle. The NFL likes San Diego as a market, even though the Chargers couldn’t strike a stadium deal there. It’s a tried-and-tested NFL city, unlike Las Vegas, and a place where the Raiders have lots of fans.

When has the league resisted using leverage when it’s available? San Diego could wind up being a real option, or a threat to further motivate Las Vegas or Oakland.

Finally, this is why the NFL approved the Inglewood deal in a 30-2 landslide. Rams owner Stan Kroenke had the will and wherewithal to finance a $2.6-billion stadium on his own. When a third party gets involved — whether it’s a bank, a billionaire, or someone else — the situation can go sideways, precisely the direction this deal looks to be heading.

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer


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