File this one under Jilted (Football) Lover.
In a move that will surprise no one, Oakland City Council intends to file a reported $500 million anti-trust lawsuit against the Raiders and the NFL for the relocation of the city’s beloved team to Las Vegas, according to multiple sources.
The timing of the impending litigation couldn’t be better, either, as it will coincide with the Raiders opener against the L.A. Rams Monday night.
To further convolute things, the team has indicated it will withdraw from negotiations with the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum to extend the team’s lease, which could effectively leave the club without a home until the state-of-the-art facility in Vegas is completed, which could be in two years.
The move of the Raiders is nothing new to sports, or to this particular franchise, which, when it bolts to Sin City, will have moved twice (more on the first one later).
Teams pulling up stakes — sometimes in the middle of the night — have made for juicy, gossipy tabloid fodder in the history of “Big 4” sports in North America.
Some were absolutely the worst moves ever, while others were actually for the better. Here is a list of best and worst pro sports team relocations, starting with best.
Atlanta Flames Move To Calgary – Best
There is no more conclusive evidence that hockey does not work in Georgia — or the deep south for that matter — than the fact two NHL clubs have decided to relocate elsewhere from Atlanta. In 1972, the NHL continued its expansion into virgin hockey markets, deciding on the growing city of Atlanta to park a franchise. The Flames, in tandem with fellow expansion team New York Islanders, brought the NHL team total to 16. The Flames, who skated in the old Omni Coliseum, recorded 65 points in their first season and missed the playoffs. However, they did qualify in six of the next seven seasons, never making out of the first round. Not that anyone really cared, either, as the average attendance went from a peak of 14,161 in their second season to just over 10,000 in the final one (1979-80). The team was sold to a Calgary consortium for $16 million (!) and moved to a city and country that embraces the game. The Flames rewarded the faithful with a Stanley Cup in 1989 and attendance in Calgary has routinely been in the upper echelon of the NHL.
Minneapolis Lakers Move To L.A. – Best
For those who have only ever known the Lakers as Kobe’s team, or even Kareem/Magic’s squad, they actually began life in the NBA in cold old Minnesota. The Lakers debuted in the old Basketball Association of America in 1948-49 and won the league’s third and last championship before a merger with the NBA in ’49. They were actually successful in Minneapolis, appearing in five NBA finals and winning four, with Hall of Famers George Mikan and Elgin Baylor in the line-up. Financial struggles, though, hastened the club’s departure to La-La Land, where things really took off. With All-Stars on the roster — think Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant — and celebrities in the stands like Jack Nicholson, the Lakers have won 11 championships since moving to L.A. in 1960. A great move, if ever there was one.
Houston Oilers Move To Tennessee – Best
For every cloud, there is a silver lining — at least for Houston football fans. Though they lost the old Oilers to Tennessee in 1997, they did gain the Texans in 2002, so their wait for big league football to return was relatively short. As for the Oilers, the franchise, which eventually played in the old Astrodome, won a couple of AFL championships in the first two years of existence and not much else after. They did boast great players like Earl Campbell and Warren Moon, but not once did the club make it past the AFC championship game. The heartbreaking loss to Buffalo in the ’92 playoffs, known as “The Comeback”, spelled the death knell for a franchise that was playing in a decrepit stadium with dwindling attendance. The move to Memphis and finally Nashville, rejuvenated it. Even though the Titans have yet to win a Super Bowl, they have made an appearance in one, losing to the St. Louis Rams in XXXIV.
Washington Senators Move To Texas – Best
The history of the Washington Senators is rife with disappointment for D.C. baseball fans. Not once, but twice did the nation’s capital lose a team named the Senators. First, the original Senators, who won a World Series title in 1924, left for Minnesota to become the Twins in 1960. The team reconstituted in 1961, but was the worst incarnation of it, reeling off 10 losing seasons in 11, their struggles encapsulized by the twist on a old joke — “Washington, first in war, first in peace and still last in the American League.” Ownership in the team was indifferent and the 10-year lease at old D.C. Stadium an albatross. By 1970, team owner Bob Short put out an ultimatum that unless he received $12 million to buy the team, he wouldn’t renew the stadium lease and move elsewhere. With no good leads, Short accepted a bid from Arlington, TX mayor Tom Vandergriff to purchase the club and by the end of the ’71 season, the Senators were gone. The Rangers have undergone many ebbs and flows financially and attendance-wise over the years, however, they have made the playoffs eight times and the World Series twice (back to back in 2010-11).
Kansas City Scouts/Colorado Rockies Move to New Jersey – Best
The NHL’s Board of Governors must have had a collective brain cramp in 1974 when they awarded Kansas City a NHL franchise. From the get-go, the new club was doomed, even though they won more games than expansion cousins, the Washington Capitals. The expansion draft didn’t yield any instant superstars and the team played to tiny crowds in old Kemper Arena. They finished last in the old Smythe Division in their two years of existence, before being moved to Denver and beginning puck life anew as the Colorado Rockies. The team never had a winning record in six seasons in the Mile High City, but did make the playoffs in 1978, losing to Philadelphia in two straight. It was same ol’, same ol’ in Colorado with attendance and money woes, forcing yet another relocation, this time to New Jersey. The Devils would suffer through five losing years — mostly due to poor handling of the club in Colorado — before becoming a perennial powerhouse with future Hall of Famers like Martin Brodeur, Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens on the roster. The Devils have been to the Stanley Cup finals five times since 1982, winning three.
Vancouver Grizzlies Move To Memphis – Best
The history of pro basketball in the American — and Canadian — northwest is one of palpable disappointment. In 1995, the NBA awarded that jewel of a city — Vancouver, B.C. — with an expansion team, joining the fledgling Toronto Raptors as the league’s 28th and 29th franchises. Nothing went right with the Grizzlies in Vancouver, from the weak Canadian dollar making them less attractive to free agents, to high profile draft picks like Steve Francis (2nd overall in 1999), not wanting to play for the club and eventually being traded to Houston. After six miserable losing seasons and dwindling attendance, the Grizz were moved to Memphis, Tennessee, becoming the first “Big 4” club to play full time in Memphis, in 2001. Since the move, the Grizzlies have enjoyed some success, making the playoffs 10 times and going to the Western Conference finals in 2013.
Cleveland Browns Move To Baltimore – Best
The late Art Modell probably isn’t even getting a moments peace from Cleveland Browns fans in eternity. In one of the most controversial moves ever, the advertising impresario lifted one of the NFL’s signature franchises out from under its loyal fan base in 1996. He moved the whole team and coaching staff to Baltimore to become a nominal expansion franchise known as the Ravens. Even though the “Dawg Pound” went crazy at the team’s final home game and there was widespread vandalism, the move to Baltimore can still be considered a good one. Cleveland eventually got its franchise, all-time record and name back in 1999 and the Ravens went on to enjoy a whole lot of success — while the Browns 2.0 have pretty much stunk the joint out since. After four seasons of fairly mediocre football, the Ravens made the playoffs in 2000 and won Super Bowl XXXV, using smash mouth, defensive oriented football. The team has made the playoffs nine times since and won another Super Bowl in 2012.
St. Louis Browns Move To Baltimore – Best
All anyone needs to know about why the old St. Louis Browns located to Baltimore to become the Orioles can be gleaned from the Bill Veeck years. The Browns started life in the American League in 1902 and for over 40 years were just fodder for other AL clubs, losing over 100 games five times before the 1944 season. That year, they made the playoffs for the first time and lost the World Series to crosstown rival St. Louis Cardinals. More mediocrity would follow, that is, until crackpot Cleveland Indians owner Veeck bought the club in 1951. Other than posting two more seasons of 100-plus losses, Veeck made the Browns notorious for wild publicity stunts. The most infamous of wich was signing little person Eddie Gaedel — all 3’7″ of him — to a contract and ordered his manager to give him an at-bat, where he walked on four straight pitches. When all was lost, Veeck was able to secure a deal to move the club to Baltimore in 1954. The renamed Orioles have since thrived, winning three World Series titles and playing in the reputable Camden Yards.
Atlanta Thrashers Move To Winnipeg – Best
We told you earlier that Atlanta is a way station for expansion NHL franchises. After 17 years without a NHL franchise, the Georgia super-city got another in the league’s four-team expansion in 1997. The Thrashers were thus born and started play in 1999 at Philips Arena, on the site of the old Omni (a bad omen, perhaps?). The team didn’t know it at the ’99 entry draft, but the selection of future bust Patrik Stefan at no. 1 would portend bad things to come. They finished near dead last in 1999-00 and selected future 50-goal scorer and controversial figure Dany Heatley, followed by another no. 1 in Ilya Kovalchuk in 2001. Despite the presence of two good young talents, the Thrashers didn’t make the playoffs until 2007 and never won a game, losing 4-0 to the New York Rangers. Four more losing seasons followed, with mounting financial woes and in a move that involved some much deserved Karma, the city of Winnipeg got another crack at having a team. The Jets have been a model franchise since and are on the upswing.
Montreal Expos Move To Washington – Best
Speaking of Karma, after losing not one, but two teams to other cities, baseball fans in D.C. were the recipients of another moribund franchise — the Montreal Expos — in 2005. The fine baseball watching folks in La Belle Province may still whine and pine for their beloved Expos, but the truth of the matter is the Expos played in the worst ball park in baseball (the Big “O”) and fan attendance dwindled drastically after the 1997 season, from near 20,000 to a horrid average of just over 9,300 in 2004. The team did have some good seasons, going to the NLCS in 1981 and employed some great players like Tim Raines, Andre Dawson, Larry Walker and Pedro Martinez. However, reviled owner Jeffrey Loria ran the team into the ground, sold the team to the league and in a final indignity, the team split its final two seasons between Montreal and San Juan, P.R. In Washington, interest piqued and through careful building has been made into a contender since 2012, making the post-season in four of six seasons.
Baltimore Colts Move To Indianapolis – Worst
If Art Modell was loathed in Cleveland, folks in Baltimore probably still stick pins in Robert Irsay voodoo dolls to this day. Even though the city did the Browns by way of another controversial move years later, the way Irsay spirited the club out of Maryland still wrankles the Colts faithful to this day. After many years of wrangling with city officials about improvements, or lack thereof, to Memorial Stadium and then the threat of the city seizing ownership of the Colts, Irsay allowed 15 Mayflower trucks — ordered by the Indianapolis mayor — to arrive the Colts Training Complex in the wee hours of Mar.29, 1984. They were loaded with every bit of Colts gear and memorabilia and each took a different route out of the city, for fear that Maryland State Police might try to block the move. The Baltimore Colts won three NFL championships and a Super Bowl, while the Indianapolis version is 1-1 in Super Bowl appearances.
Seattle SuperSonics Move To Oklahoma City – Worst
Why is it that millionaire, and even billionaire, sports team owners always hold taxpayers hostage when they need spanking new, state-of-the-art facilities built? And, how is it that powerful leagues like the NBA allow said practices to go unchecked, allowing for wholesale movement of established teams? In the case of the Seattle SuperSonics and owner Clay Bennett, an Oklahoma City native, the fans in Seattle got stiffed by him and a fairly successful team in a major market got moved to a tiny market. From the minute he took over the franchise from Howard Schultz, Bennett was looking to move the team and when he was denied $500 million in taxpayer funds to build a new arena, he announced in 2007 that the team would be headed to OKC. In 2008, it did just that, leaving Sonics fans extremely bitter about how it all went down. As far as SuperSonics vs. Thunder success goes, the Sonics won a title and lost in the finals twice, while the Thunder have made it to the finals once, losing to Miami in 2012.
Winnipeg Jets Move To Phoenix – Worst
Hockey in the desert, for the most part, has pretty much been an unmitigated disaster. The Arizona Coyotes are an afterthought in a state that houses more popular clubs in the other Big 4 sports, not getting near the support afforded to teams in traditional markets and always a target of relocation talk. When the team was known as the original Winnipeg Jets, the market, too, was small but rabid about hockey and well-attended. However, greedy Jets owners — are there really any other kind? — weren’t getting a cut of the parking and concessions, and a new arena with luxury boxes wasn’t in the cards. So, like many other soon-to-be-hated executives, they moved the franchise, all the way to Phoenix. Again, Karma saw the Jets get a version 2.0 after the Atlanta Thrashers couldn’t make a go of it, but the original team should have stayed put. The ‘Yotes were semi-successful in five of six seasons after relocation, making the playoffs, but have failed to get to the promised land in 12 of the last 15 campaigns, including the last six straight.
Chicago Cardinals Move To St. Louis Then To Phoenix – Worst
In yet another saga of a team losing its mojo by relocating, nearly incessantly, we give you the NFL’s Cardinals. St. Louis has lost more teams than it has gained in pro sports, especially in football. They have won the Rams from Los Angeles only to lose same again years later. In 1960, they gained the Cardinals from Chicago, only to see that team depart for Phoenix in 1988. But first, the Cards began their football life in the Windy City, winning a NFL championship and losing one between 1920 and 1959. The club was shipped off to St. Louis in 1960 and that version had middling success in 28 seasons, going to the playoffs three times but never winning a game. The team was revitalized in Arizona, to the point it made it to the Super Bowl, losing to Pittsburgh in XLIII. However, a malaise has again set over the club, with talk of it — like a few other teams — moving to Los Angeles if things don’t improve.
New Orleans Jazz Move To Utah – Worst
What, if anything, is Jazz-y about Salt Lake City, Utah? Sure, it’s situated in a broad valley surrounded by the picturesque Wasatch Mountains, but it’s a conservative state where the Mormon religion forbids listening to vulgar music, which may include jazz. Anyhow, the move of the team from ‘Nawlins — where pretty much anything goes — to SLC nearly four decades ago still causes Cajuns to spit in the dirt. But, again, Karma brought basketball back to Louisiana, in the form of the Pelicans, who are a class club right now. As for the Jazz, they were fairly well supported for five seasons, if not a great team in the old Eastern Conference. When the original owners moved the team west, they said all the usual platitudes, promising to build a contender, yada, yada, yada. However, attendance in Utah was actually worse in its first year than it was during the last campaign in New Orleans. Now,the Jazz were pretty good for a while in early 1990s, we will say, what with having future Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone kicking around, but have yet to win that elusive first championship.
Rams Move From L.A. To St. Louis And Back To L.A. – Worst
The worst of this series of moves is the fact that Rams ownership over the years alienated fans in Los Angeles and then St. Louis, only to return the club to La-La Land in 2016. So, all should be forgiven, no? Well, not if one was a Rams fan in Missouri for 21 seasons. And, the St. Louis version was the only one to win a Super Bowl, against Tennessee at XXXIV and then lose one to New England at Super Bowl XXXVI. But, Super Bowl title aside, the Edward Jones Dome is a dump and owner Stan Kroenke used the negative press about the doomed stadium to break the team’s lease in 2015, paving the way for a move to an eventual state-of-the-art football field in Inglewood in 2020. Despite the fans’ disgust for Edward Jones, they never thought that Kroenke and the NFL would treat them with such disregard and move the club, launching a lawsuit thereafter. Despite all the rosy predictions of a bright future back in California, what happens when Kroenke, or whoever owns the team in 20 years, from considering the new stadium a giant turd?
Hartford Whalers Move To Carolina – Worst
The Whalers were so beloved in Hartford, that the city actually threw them a parade when they made the second round of the playoffs in 1986. Hockey in Connecticut, then, was way more natural than hockey south of the Mason/Dixon Line and made even more compelling considering the Whalers geographical rivalry with the Boston Bruins. They weren’t the most successful franchise in the NHL, but the Whalers did survive the collapse of the defunct WHA, where they were originally known as the New England Whalers. The team made the playoffs eight times in 18 seasons, usually bowing to either the Bruins or Montreal Canadiens. In 1994, after the team missed the post-season for the second time in a row, Peter Karmanos bought the club and vowed to keep the Whalers there for four years. But, the usual gripes about bad attendance and no corporate support chafed him and by 1997, just three years later, the team was gone to the hotbed of Raleigh, North Carolina. Initially, the ‘Canes did well and would win a Stanley Cup in 2006. But, lately, interest has waned as the club has suffered through nine straight springs without playoff hockey. Uh-oh.
Minnesota North Stars Move To Dallas – Worst
Hockey in the south is a work in progress. Well, with a lot of work and little progress, actually. Minnesota is known as the State of Hockey and when it finally got a club in 1967, the North Stars, it embraced them for all they were worth. For 26 years, the hockey faithful in Minny supported a team that twice went to the Stanley Cup finals, only to lose (to the Islanders in 1981 and the Penguins in 1991). That last finals loss must have cut interest appreciably, if former owner Norm Green is to be believed. Lack of attendance, as well as the usual gripes about an inadequate arena and concessions were cited as a reason to take the team to the Lone Star State. Whoever was right, the move still angered many, many Minnesotans, who would later get another franchise in the expansion Wild. As for how the Stars have done in Big D? Well, they did win it all in 1999 and lost in the 2000 finals, but haven’t really done much of anything since, missing the playoffs in eight of the last 10 seasons.
Raiders Move From Oakland To Los Angeles And Back To Oakland – Worst
Like father, like son. Mark Davis, like his Dad Al before him, did the whole “woe is our franchise” routine enough to get the league’s board of governors to approve the Raiders move — again — from Oakland to Las Vegas. The precedent for all this comes from the days when Al Davis ruled the Raiders with an iron fist and moved the team not once, but twice in his tenure. In the early 80s, Al was envious of other clubs having Gucci stadiums with corporate boxes and newer amenities, while his club was stuck toiling in the dodgy old Oakland Alameda Coliseum. Even though his team routinely sold out, Davis wanted a new facility or an expanded Coliseum, paid for with taxpayer dollars, of course. When a temper tantrum didn’t work, he moved the franchise to the L.A. Coliseum in time for the 1982 campaign. While many promises were made to refurbish the L.A. stadium, that never happened and after just 13 seasons in L.A. and another Super Bowl championship, Big Al moved the team in disgust back to Oakland, when promises to renovate were again made. What a farce.
California Golden Seals Move To Cleveland – Worst
First, let us preface this bit by saying the NHL shouldn’t have expanded into the San Francisco Bay area in 1967. While hockey has been wildly popular in San Jose since the Sharks moved in, the way the league put a non-competitive squad in a non-hockey environment sunk the Oakland Seals (aka California Seals, California Golden Seals) from the start. Starting in 1967-68 as the Oakland Seals, the franchise floundered out of the gate and through two name changes and nine seasons, never posted a winning season once — but did make the playoffs in the second and third season of their existence, never making it past the first round. When eccentric Oakland A’ owner Charlie O. Finley bought the team in 1970, things went down hill very fast. He was another gimmicky guy in the mold of Bill Veeck, changing the team’s name and colors to match his beloved A’s, as well as horrid white leather skates. Later, new owners George and Gordon Gund persuaded the league to take the mediocre Seals to Cleveland, which they did in 1976. The Barons, though, fared even worse in The Land, lasting two seasons before the team was folded and merged with, get this, the Minnesota North Stars.