April 10, 2018
Oakland Should Sue the NFL and Mark Davis
By Chris De Benedetti
If I told you that, with just one step, the Oakland City Council could recoup hundreds of millions of public dollars, silence longtime critics over the Raiders deal, and erase the Coliseum debt — all while outfoxing a powerful corporation with a history of mistreating Oakland — would you want them to do it?
Of course, you would.
Oakland council members now have that chance. All they have to do is join an antitrust lawsuit being prepared against Mark Davis and the NFL over the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas.
Instead of giving in, members of Forever Oakland and another fan organization, We Stand with Oakland, set their sights on digging in. They quietly began researching law firms with the goal of using legal action to prevent the Vegas move, or to force Davis to leave the Raiders’ name and logo in Oakland while taking his team with a new name to Sin City. (Cleveland did the same with the Browns in 1996, when then-owner Art Modell left Ohio and rechristened his former Browns franchise the Baltimore Ravens.)
After months of legwork, the Oakland fan groups chose wisely.
They selected Berg & Androphy of Houston and Weil, Gotshal & Manges of New York — a legal team that includes Jim Quinn, a high-powered Manhattan attorney who’s no stranger to defeating the NFL. Quinn’s legal victories over the league include litigation on behalf of the North American Soccer League; a lawsuit that hastened the end of the NFL’s 2011 lockout; and the so-called “Freeman McNeil case,” when a jury verdict found the NFL had violated antitrust laws and paved the way for league free agency.
There are other reasons to support the lawsuit, its backers say.
For one, Oakland would take no financial risk, Quinn said. He and the other attorneys are working on a contingency basis, meaning they’ll front all legal fees at no cost to the city or county. If the lawsuit fails, the law firms will cover their tab. The attorneys have to win in order to receive payment, which would be one-third of a judgment or recovery settlement — the industry standard for contingency work.
Also, early concerns that legal action might spur a countersuit have proved untrue. “Just because you get sued, you can’t just say, ‘I’ll sue you back.’” Quinn said. “You have to have basis for a claim to do that, and [the NFL and Davis] have no claim. It would be frivolous, and they could be sanctioned for it.”
Councilmembers can protect Oakland’s taxpayers and fans by voting to start the lawsuit against Mark Davis and the NFL. I urge them to do so as soon as possible. And I urge the county board of supervisors to then follow suit.