Atlanta, GA – Oakland Raiders Owner Mark Davis (son of Al Davis) saying he has $400 million for a stadium for the Oakland Coliseum City Project wasn’t the only thing he and I talked about at the NFL Spring League Meeting at The Ritz Carlton – Buckhead on Tuesday.
We also talked about the need for a champion for the Raiders stadium project, and for Coliseum City, within the City of Oakland, and we talked about the current Oakland Mayor’s Race, where the incumbent, Jean Quan, is running for re-election against 16 other candidates.
As I blogged earlier, ESPN, The NFL Network, and other media outlets, were covering the NFL playoff expansion issue, but came away with no story to tell as the matter was tabled. Meanwhile, I was hanging out in the hallway waiting to talk with Mr. Davis.
In fact, I was standing for hours at a time, and since I’m black and bald and was in a suit, and some people have a tendency to racially profile, a few people, including one ESPN producer, assumed I was a security guard.
I just laughed at the whole deal. My friend Frank Supovitz, the NFL’s departing head of special events, joked about all of the things he got done, including his second coffee, while I was just standing next to a wall in the hallway waiting for the Raiders’ Mark Davis.
Here’s what I recounted in my previous blog post, presented here, below:
UPDATE: Mr. Davis and I had the conversation in the middle of the hallway leading to the conference rooms at the Ritz Carlton – Buckhead. While the rest of the media, including the NFL Network, was playing a ‘me-too’ game of covering the playoffs issue and the Super Bowl 52 Bid, I was at the NFL Spring League Meeting specifically to talk to Mark Davis about Coliseum City.
We just happened to be in the full view of the rest of the media, but they paid no attention to our conversation, even though we were really animated.
But then by the time Raiders fans got to my first Twitter tweet after our talk, the media realized they’d missed something. So Ian Rapaport of NFL Network (who’s editors picked up the NFL-related Twitter chatter and put him on the case) doubled back to ask him the same question, thus confirming what we talked about.
But by then it was too late: the Raider fans-created Twitter firestorm already happened.
I deliberately left out the rest of our conversation until I could focus on siting down and absorbing what we talked about and blogging the rest of it in full. See, Mr. Davis didn’t want to do a video so, I quickly jettisoned that idea, and just talked with him.
Basically, I didn’t want to blow my entire wad at once, in one blog post.
Moreover, the NFL Network doesn’t know anything about the Oakland situation anywhere close to what I know, (and Ian never asked me about it) because my history goes back to 1977, when the organization started making noise about leaving Oakland for the first time.
Moreover, I came to within eight NFL owner votes of bringing the Super Bowl to Oakland in 2005, but we lost to Jacksonville in a competition that included Miami. And prior to that, I advised then-Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris on many matters concerning the Raiders and the Coliseum Authority. So I have an experience with Oakland and the Raiders that the rest of the media could never match.
But I digress, Mark Davis and I also talked more in-depth about the lack of a champion for the stadium project. After he said to me if I knew who else had financing, I said that it was a distressful situation and that there was no champion for having the stadium in Oakland, then paused and said ‘outside of yourself.’
I then said that what we need is a person like then-Oakland Assistant City Manager Ezra Rapport, who assembled the initial Raiders deal to bring them back Oakland from Los Angeles in 1995. Davis quickly responded by saying “I wasn’t around for that.” I said that I was (as I was a columnist for The Montclarion covering the Raiders deal, and according to Monte Poole, then of the Oakland Tribune, broke the story of the Raiders returning to Oakland).
Then Marc Bedain chimed in that we did have Fred Blackwell, but then I said “Well for one month as CAO (Oakland Chief Administrative Officer) then he bolted off for the San Francisco Foundation” to be their CEO.
I then said to Mark that Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said she has a great relationship with him. Mark said that he does and “I have a great relationship with all of them” referring to the elected officials on the Coliseum Authority.
But this is not personal, it’s business.
As we wrapped up the sad conversation, I asked Davis if he was paying attention to the Oakland Mayor’s Race. “No,” Mark said. When I asked why and pressed him for an answer, he said “I can’t count 1, 2, or 3,” referring to our ranked-choice voting election system.
I said that given the system we could wind up with Charlie The Dog as our next Mayor. Davis said “That might not be a bad thing.” I cracked up.
Davis wasn’t being mean, and I’m not being mean either, but we want to get this thing done, and the current leadership is lacking.
We, Davis and I, are certainly united in our displeasure with Oakland’s elected officials but it’s not at all personal. We, as a united front of Oaklanders, can come up with a solution, but the City of Oakland (and now this is me talking) has to stop counting on the developers of Coliseum City to come up with it, and help them out.
It’s as if they fear taking any real responsibility for the stadium issue.
The Raiders or the City of Oakland, really both, would do well to call former Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb of The Bobb Group to be the Coliseum City czar. We need a focused point person who knows all of the players involved and has a track record of working with sports organizations.
Robert Bobb left Oakland in 2002 (and after now-California Governor Jerry Brown stupidly let him go for trying to build a downtown stadium for the Oakland Athletics, and no, I’m not kidding) and then went to bring the former Montreal Expos to Washington and build a stadium for them as The Washington Nationals. Bobb then went on to fix the Detroit School Financial Mess, before returning to Washington D.C. – but he keeps an eye on Oakland all the time.
Davis and I didn’t have time to finish our talk, but the clear bottom line is he’s sending a message that he’s ready to make this Oakland Raiders Stadium happen.
The ball is clearly in the court of Oakland’s elected officials.