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NFL Las Vegas leaves some feeling ambivalent for Raiders' move

On Monday morning, NFL owners heard reports from the league office, got an update from their stadium and financing committees, received final thoughts from the Oakland Raiders management, and then it was over. No questions. No discussion. Just a perfunctory and unsentimental vote -- 31-1, the only dissenter the Miami Dolphins' Stephen Ross -- and it was over. Raider Nation gets prepared to move just a bit east -- after at least two more seasons in Oakland, and then one more season at an undetermined site before the new stadium is completed -- with what amounted to a well-shod shrug.

The reluctant relocation ended a bizarre two-year stretch of frantic activity that seemed to leave owners and even Commissioner Roger Goodell weary and that was summed up perfectly by one league executive: if someone had told you five years ago that the NFL would have two teams in Los Angeles and one in Las Vegas, what would the odds have been? No pun intended, of course.

That's because, even up to only a few months ago, there was still some hope that the Raiders could have remained in Oakland. Nobody -- including Raiders owner Mark Davis -- wanted to see another team move, least of all from one of the nation's booming economies to one with decidedly less juice. And so the word "disappointed" was uttered plenty, even in official remarks from Goodell and Davis.

Still, of all the moves the NFL has made, literally and figuratively, this is the one that will certainly cause an occasional longing glance at what is left behind -- a booming, lucrative area for one that is famously susceptible to the vicissitudes of the economy. The NFL will almost certainly try to place a team there again someday. But one league executive noted how long it took to return to Los Angeles after it was left empty, and in the meantime the NFL will probably be happy to use Oakland as its latest leverage for teams seeking new stadiums.

 he wanted to move to Los Angeles in a shared stadium with the Chargers and was stunned when that project went to Stan Kroenke and the Rams instead. Since then, Davis has turned his attention to Las Vegas, but his pursuit of a stadium had gone on much longer.

withal to privately finance a Kroenke-like palace, but the NFL insisted there was no solution in sight in California. On Monday, Davis claimed that Oakland had played hardball from the start, and that was the beginning of the final unraveling.

"I believe it turned during the L.A. part where, before the vote for Los Angeles, Oakland had an opportunity to come in and make a presentation for the league," Davis said. "They came in with a five-page piece of paper that had nothing to do with anything. They claimed that they would wait for us to lose the vote and then to come back and they'd have all the leverage. We lost the vote, we came back to Oakland, we negotiated a one-year lease with the two years of options and talked about getting together and talking about a long-term future together. A week later, I got a call from one of the county board of supervisors to tell me 'Mark, I'm sorry but the lease we just negotiated, the three years of leases are not going to be valid. We're going to raise the rent three times on you.' At that point, we ended up signing that lease anyway but then decided we had to start looking elsewhere to see if we could find a long-term solution."

That is a reminder that, at bottom, football teams are businesses, not public trusts, and they behave, using all the tools businesses use to increase their bargaining position and reduce their risk, and should be treated as such. It would probably insulate fans from heartbreak to occasionally remember that. Among the first words out of Goodell's mouth Monday was a reminder that the NFL is always looking to create stability for its teams -- that is what this was, a lifeline for a franchise that will need money, a lot of it, to pay its young stars, to provide better training facilities, to afford the best coaches and scouts,to give fans something to cheer , to  steady a wobbly team about wherever the team is headquartered.

For Davis, this is a muted victory. He encountered Raiders fans in the lobby and spoke to them, a rare moment of connection for the fans who often feel forgotten by the decision-makers. But Davis has always been different, from other owners and from his dad.
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