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Patriots owner Kraft praises Davis, supports Vegas move

Norm Clarke
VSiN Columnist

March 28, 2017 06:37 PM
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Raiders owner Mark Davis has earned respect from powerful forces within the NFL.

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Robert Kraft, a powerful supporter of the Raiders’ move from Oakland to Las Vegas, suggested it happened fast because Mark Davis has escaped the shadow of his iconic father’s long feud with the NFL.

“I’m a big fan of Mark Davis and how he’s handled things since he’s taken over, and you know his dad owed $50 million to the league and he paid it off right away and he showed …” Kraft paused there.

“I think (Mark Davis) is a real good guy and he wants to do what’s best for his team,” said Kraft, the New England Patriots owner who was part of the 31-1 landslide vote to approve the Raiders’ relocation during Monday’s NFL owners meeting at the Biltmore hotel.

Kraft added, “I think Las Vegas is going to be a big beneficiary. I think it’s a win-win.”

When Mark Davis took over as owner after his father died in 2011, there were owners who had not forgiven his father for battling the NFL establishment in the 1980s and 1990s.

He reveled in suing the league, first over the right to move his franchise from Oakland to Los Angeles. His victory cost the NFL $50 million and triggered a period of owners relocating for sweeter deals.

After 12 years in the cavernous Los Angeles Coliseum, Al Davis decided to move back to Oakland when the Raiders didn’t gain traction.

Shortly after returning to Oakland for the 1995-1996 season, he sued the NFL again, for $200 million, claiming the league sabotaged negotiations that could have kept the Raiders in Los Angeles.

He also alleged in the state court suit that after league approved the Raiders’ return to Oakland, the San Francisco 49ers and other owners conspired to keep him from moving back to Oakland.

Prior to that he had claimed in federal court that the league had blocked him from returning to Oakland for the 1994 season.

Raiders whiz kids
Davis was asked during Monday’s announcement what his father would have thought about the move to Las Vegas.

“I think he’d be proud that two young kids — myself and Marc Badain — who started out as water boys in this organization are taking this organization into the future, like I said the Entertainment Capital of the World.”

Badain went on to become the Raiders president.

Credit Davis with inheriting some of his father’s visionary genes. In 1998 he reserved Las VegasRaiders.com on the Internet.

Special times
There are special moments in one’s career, and being in the room Monday when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced the Raiders were moving to Las Vegas was one of them.

It was, as Yogi Berra, once said, déjà vu all over again.

If you’re lucky, and live long enough, it’s a highlight to be part of the birth of one major sports franchise. This is my fourth and most improbable.

The first two came in Denver, when Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League arrived five years apart. The other two came in Las Vegas, nine months apart.

Few things bring a community together like a major sports happening, as longtime UNLV basketball fans know.

Few moments compare to winning a major national championship, as Jerry Tarkanian’s Rebels did in the 1989-1990 season.

But getting a major sports franchise is another of those rare bonding moments that brings out community pride in spades.

My first experience was a seven-year stint as the Rocky Mountain News’ point man on Denver’s bid to gain an MLB franchise. The proudest moment came on June 5, 1991, when I broke the news that National League was awarding a franchise to Denver.

Breaking Britney Spears’ quickie marriage, Michael Jackson’s arrival in Las Vegas after 2½ years of self-exile overseas and Celine Dion expecting twins were bigger globally, but the Denver baseball story will always be the most personal, in part because of the ferocity of the city’s newspaper war, but also because Denver was my second home and I grew up in Montana in the Rocky Mountain region.

When it became official, the explosion of community pride was something I’ll never forget. There were so many parents overjoyed that their kids would have their hometown big league baseball team.

The Avalanche added to the exciting era by winning over fans who had never seen an NHL game. They won the Stanley Cup in their first year in Denver, after 20-some years of futility as the Quebec Nordiques.

The Vegas Golden Knights will always hold a special place in the hearts of Las Vegas fans for being the first major sports franchise. They’ll have about a three-year head start to build their fan base before the Raiders arrive.

The Raiders’ move was a lightning strike out of the blue after years of being convinced the NFL would never allow it.

One of the first familiar faces I ran into on Monday was ESPN’s Adam Schefter. We go back to the early 1990s when we were colleagues at the Rocky Mountain News.

He reminded me that he was 23 and my wingman on the day I broke the story of my lifetime. Not that I had forgotten. For journalists, there are few better bonding experiences than working a big story together.

That Adam had a career in journalism was evident early on, but the starpower explosion came when he got in front of a camera. He had it all: the reporting skills, a winning personality, he was photogenic, and had a knack for getting big stories.

Ten years ago, when a shooting at a strip club further marred a weekend of shocking behavior during the NBA All-Star Game event, there was a rumor that NFL problem child Adam “Pac Man” Jones sparked the incident.

I made one call. It was to Schefter. Ten minutes later, he had a three-word response: “Run with it.”

Our friendship had gone full circle.

On this day…
March 28, 1947: Folies Bergere, the Parisian-style topless revue at the Tropicana, kicks its last can-can after 49 years and 29,000 performances. The crowd is packed with the show’s nostalgic alumni, who admit the revue became dated in the Cirque de Soleil era.

Sightings

At CinemaCon on Tuesday at The Colosseum (Caesars Palace) for the STX presentatation: Jessica Chastain, Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Luc Besson, director of “Valerian And the City of a Thousand Planets,” it’s co-star Cara Delevingne, Aaron Sorkin, writer and director of  “Molly's Game,” and Peter Berg, director of “Mile 22.”… At Sony Pictures studio presentation at the opening session on Monday at the Colosseum: John Hamm, Ryan Gosling, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and Nick Jonas.

The punch line
“It was announced that Canada plans to legalize marijuana by July of next year. It’s exciting for Americans because now they can add weed to the list of drugs they buy in Canada.” – Late-night host Jimmy Fallon.

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