It was late July, and the sun was shining in Texas. The NFL season was still months away from starting, and the snark was heavy that the Texans would be terrible once more. As for the Cowboys, nobody expected so much as a winning season, let alone a deep playoff run. It was, in other words, the perfect time for speculating that the new favorite team of everybody who donned the Spurs’ silver and black would be the NFL’s Raiders, whom the San Antonio Express-News had revealed were in what appeared to be serious talks to relocate their franchise to the Alamo City.
But that was July, and this is February, and the latest plans out of the Raiders franchise suggest that, despite the reasonable argument that San Antonio was ready to host an NFL franchise, the city was once again just a bargaining chip. Always the pro sports bridesmaid, never the pro sports bride. So San Antonio’s bid to lay claim to the silver-and-black jewel of the NFL appears to be dead. What happened?
Mostly, it seems, Raiders owner Mark Davis wants to keep the team in California. That doesn’t mean Oakland—indeed, the idea that the Raiders will remain in Oakland is only slightly less far-fetched than the idea that they’ll be coming to Texas. Rather, the Raiders are in talks to become the Los Angeles Raiders once more, the moniker the team wore from 1982 to 1994.
Last week, the Raiders organization announced a joint proposal with the San Diego Chargers to build a stadium in Carson, California—about seventeen miles south of downtown Los Angeles—that the two teams would share. That proposal quickly gathered steam, and is eight thousand signatures away from being either a ballot initative for the public to vote on or a matter for the Carson City Council to decide.
Observers in Oakland estimate that there’s a thirty-day window for the city to keep the team, at which point negotiations will be declared at an impasse, and it doesn’t appear that there’s much will on either part for a new stadium deal to be reached. The city of San Diego, meanwhile, is in a tailspin as they attempt to keep their NFL franchise from moving two hours north.
All of which is to say that two different NFL franchises could be leaving their city in the near future—and neither of them would be coming to San Antonio.
For its part, the city of San Antonio seems to recognize that it’s been burned. Bexar County judge Nelson Wolff told the Express-News that he believed pro sports franchises “are not truthful with you. They lie,” and the paper’s own editorial board penned a snarky editorial in which they declared that the only thing more painful than watching the relocation discussion unfold was watching the Raiders play football (hey-o!), and implied that the city’s mistake in allowing itself to be used to strengthen the team’s negotiating position with both Oakland and Los Angeles was dwarfed by the Raiders’ decision to draft notorious quarterback flop Todd Marinovich in 1991. That’s a deep-dive into potshot territory for a paper that would have swooned to have the Raiders to cover, but making oneself feel better after a heartbreak often involves the “we didn’t want you anyway” motif.
Those are the cynical—if realistic—voices in San Antonio. There are others who have a bit more hope for the city’s NFL future. Red McCombs insists that the dream isn’t dead, while a source close to former mayor Henry Cisneros—who spearheaded the city’s pursuit of the Raiders—indicated to the Express-News that the organization was “very, very pleased with all aspects of a complete package proposed by San Antonio.”
McCombs isn’t technically wrong when he says that the Raiders could still come to San Antonio—but the scenario that would bring the team to town is serpentine and, to put it mildly, unlikely. The wildcard here is that the Raiders and the Chargers aren’t the only teams looking to move to Los Angeles in the very near future: the St. Louis Rams have made their interest in relocating very clear. Owner Stanley Kroenke received approval from the Inglewood City Council on Tuesday night to build a $2 billion stadium in the Los Angeles suburb. It’s unlikely that the NFL would allow three teams to move to the same city, even one with a media market as large as L.A.’s. Those plans could be scuttled if the deal between the Raiders and Chargers comes to pass in Carson, but if that falls apart, all three teams would be jockeying for a maximum of two slots in Los Angeles, and it’s likely one of them would get shuffled elsewhere. If the Rams and the Chargers end up taking L.A., and the Raiders have ended negotiations with Oakland—a realistic proposition—that would leave the Raiders looking for a new city.
There’s no guarantee that that new city would be San Antonio—indeed, it’s possible that the Raiders would be more likely to move to St. Louis to replace the Rams in that scenario—but as hypotheticals go, that’s the hope that McCombs and Cisneros can hang on to. The only thing 100 percent certain right now is that all of these negotiations are fragile, and anything could happen. In the meantime, Los Angeles is almost sure to have two NFL teams before San Antonio gets any consideration to have one, which probably won’t preempt the “always the bridesmaid” feeling in South Texas.