The National Football League on Thursday defeated an antitrust appeal by the city of Oakland, California over the 2017 decision by the Raiders football team to move to Las Vegas.
By a 3-0 vote, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected Oakland’s claims that the league’s refusal to expand beyond 32 teams, and its decision to charge the Raiders a $378 million relocation fee, interfered with competition.
Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima found too many “speculative links” between the league’s conduct and Oakland’s alleged injuries, noting that the Raiders might have left Oakland anyway or the city might have pursued another team.
“Although the city has alleged antitrust injury, it has not alleged with sufficient certainty that … the Raiders would have stayed in Oakland, and under what terms, in a hypothetical competitive market,” Tashima wrote.
Lawyers for Oakland, the Raiders, and the NFL did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The league’s other 31 teams were also defendants.
Oakland had sued the NFL in December 2018, accusing the league of operating as a “cartel” that made it particularly expensive for cities to host teams.
While Oakland did not demand the Raiders return, it sought more than $240 million representing sums invested in expectation the team would stay put, plus lost tax revenue and the reduction in the value of the Oakland Coliseum, where the team played.
The Raiders now play in Allegiant Stadium, a $1.9 billion facility that opened last year. Thursday’s decision upheld an April 2020 ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero.
The case is City of Oakland v Oakland Raiders et al, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 20-16075.