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Raiders, NFL call Oakland’s lawsuit a “striking perversion of antitrust law”

Mike Florio

The City of Oakland has responded to the looming relocation of one of the most litigious franchises in sports with, drum roll, litigation. And now the Raiders and the NFL are trying to get the antitrust lawsuit filed over the coming move to Las Vegas thrown out of court.

It’s a very common maneuver whenever any lawsuit presents an aggressive and creative legal theory. Before spending tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars defending the case on the merits, the defendants try to knock it out with a device known as the motion to dismiss, for failure to state a claim. Basically, the argument goes this like this: “Even if everything they’re saying is true (and we reserve the right to later argue that it’s not), they can’t win.”

Via the Bay Area News Group, the Raiders and the NFL filed their motion to dismiss on March 1, calling the lawsuit a “striking perversion of antitrust law” and claiming that Oakland is trying to “turn antitrust on its head.”

The Raiders want to move to Las Vegas,” the team and the league wrote in the memorandum of law supporting the motion to dismiss. “Las Vegas wants to host the Raiders. The Las Vegas opportunity is more attractive, so much so that the Raiders are willing to pay a relocation fee over $300 million in order to move.”

Oakland’s antitrust argument has been confusing from the get-go. If anything, an antitrust violation would arise if the league tried to keep the Raiders — like all teams an independent business — from moving. Which is precisely what happened in the early ’80s, leading to a lawsuit that the Raiders won, and a the beefing up of the league’s relocation policy. Now, Oakland is separately claiming that the league has violated its own relocation policy, to the detriment of the city that will be losing the Raiders.

The Raiders and the NFL argue that the relocation policy doesn’t rise to the level of a “contract” or any other binding obligation to the cities where teams currently play. “The policy provides that clubs will attempt to develop ‘suitable stadium facilities in their home territories’ through good faith negotiations, but recognizes that this may not always be possible,” the defendants argue in the written submission to the court.

In April, Oakland will respond to the motion to dismiss in writing, a hearing date likely will be set (if it hasn’t already been), and the Raiders and the league will submit the final written paperwork on the matter before the presiding judge decides, apparently by June, whether to throw the case out or let it proceed. If it moves forward, a trial tentatively has been scheduled to begin in August 2021.

And so ends today’s session of the PFT Cracker Jack Box School Of Legal Miseducation.