Rob Manfred threatens Oakland with potential Vegas move for Athletics


Fresh off of a disappointing wild card elimination at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays earlier this month, the city of Oakland received more unpleasant news, this time from MLB commissioner, Rob Manfred. The former lawyer and business exec warned Oakland Mayor, Libby Schaaf, that the Athletics could relocate to Las Vegas if the city did not drop its lawsuit that would stop Alameda County from selling its shares of the team’s stadium, the Coliseum, to the team.

The Athletics have long shared the Coliseum with the Oakland Raiders, but are seeking to build a new stadium at Howard Terminal on the heels of the Raiders’ 2020 move to Las Vegas. The city of Oakland and Alameda County share ownership of the coliseum, however, because Oakland cannot match the Athletics’ $85 million dollar offer for Alameda’s share of the stadium, the city sued to block the sale. A judge issued a temporary hold on the transaction, prompting Manfred’s response, a sign that his patience with the situation is running thin.

The Coliseum has always been regarded among the MLB’s worst ballparks given its outdated, dual-sport accommodations. In turn, the Athletics consistently rank bottom five in the league in attendance despite making the playoffs in five of the last eight years. With the Raiders on the way out of town, the Athletics are looking to seize the opportunity of acquiring a new ballpark and have drawn up plans for a new, cutting-edge stadium that would be located on the Oakland Waterfront. While the initial projections have pegged this project to cost upwards of $500 million, the good news is that it will be privately financed. Moreover, the Athletics have already crossed a hurdle as the stadium proposal was passed unanimously last month in the Senate 34-0.

Though the bill was originally headed to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for final approval, the lawsuit has halted any momentum for the moment. However, as the MLB and the Athletics have a vested interest in moving forward with an established plan for the new stadium, Manfred’s pressure on city officials is justified. The commissioner’s calculated warning also strikes a chord with Oakland sports fans, who have already witnessed the Warriors’s last game in the city and are awaiting the same with the Raiders. While Manfred’s caution about a potential Vegas move is more hot air than a near reality, it certainly represents a plan B for the Athletics, and the prospect of losing three professional teams in two years is too much for Oakland to bear.

The next hearing in the city’s lawsuit is scheduled for November 14th, and while the city still won’t be able to match the $85 million offer at that point, it is reasonable to expect that their approach to the situation will have changed substantially as there is a lot to lose. The Athletics’ official site has published a summary of the economic impact the new stadium should expect to generate over the next ten years and it blows the $500 million construction figure out of the water. Between the 2,000 development jobs, local investments, and game-day attendee spending, the report estimates roughly $3 billion in total economic impact for residents and businesses once construction begins in 2021.

It is hard to imagine a scenario in which the Athletics are pushed to the point of relocation as all parties involved, the team, league and city, are in agreement of a new ballpark, but are still ironing out the finances. With a rich baseball history,  a solid young core and arguably the best general manager in the league, the Athletics have all the makings of a strong baseball franchise. They struggle, however, with their status as a small market team, and have not had a payroll that ranked higher than 26th, out of the 30 teams, since 2014. Yet, a new stadium – one that is actually intended for baseball – could be just what the Athletics need to spark their fanbase and vault themselves into a consistently profitable revenue stream. It’s no secret that the city of Oakland needs the Athletics just as much as they need it, so expect both sides to come together and put this lawsuit, and the threat of Las Vegas, behind them.

Antonio Brown and (not-so) Guaranteed Money

Ab frustrated

The Antonio Brown saga has taken yet another turn in recent days as his brief stint with the Patriots ended in an abrupt release. For the Patriots’ part, they had apparently become uncomfortable with the texts Brown sent to a second sexual assault accuser, prompting them to part ways with the wide receiver. On Brown’s end, he again took to social media to express his frustration, and in a series of tweets seem to criticize what he viewed to be a double standard of his treatment, versus that of team owner Robert Kraft, who faced heat earlier this year for soliciting the services of a prostitute. Brown’s tweet, now deleted, reportedly burned any potential bridge for reunion of the two parties, but more importantly may have further implications regarding Brown’s contract.

As you might remember just two weeks ago, the former Steeler griped his way out of Oakland, and in doing so, forfeited 30 million dollars of seemingly “guaranteed” money. However, there were two stipulations in the agreed upon contract that gave the Raiders certain avenues to relieve themselves of their commitment to Brown. The first was a clause relating to his $1 million signing bonus that required him to show up to at least 85% of  the team’s offseason programs. Of course, Brown failed to do so, in large part due to the helmet fiasco, giving the team the right to not only void this piece of the contract, but to also fine him over $50,000.

The second deals with the guarantee itself, and the language in the contract gave the Raiders significant discretion in deciding whether or not to fulfill it. The crucial portion states, “If at any time player does not honor any terms of the Contract (including any addenda thereto), then player shall be in default…and the Skill, Injury, and Cap guarantee shall be null and void…” It continues to state that the remaining can only be earned through a weekly, non-guaranteed basis, and this is exactly what the Raiders elected to do in light of Brown’s heated dispute with GM Mike Mayock, the same person responsible for granting him the contract in the first place.

What followed is now old news. Oakland released AB, he infamously celebrated on Instagram, and then “settled” on a 10 million dollar contract with the New England Patriots – $9 million of which was purportedly guaranteed through a signing bonus and another million as base salary. The agreement angered fans around the NFL, seemingly shifting the league’s balance lopsidedly to the defending champion’s favor. However, news of a second accuser, followed by threatening texts sent to her by Brown, led to the Patriots to release him on Friday – again putting his guaranteed money in question.

The star wideout was set to receive the first installment of the signing bonus today, with the remaining to be paid out in January. However, the Patriots reportedly have yet to pay that, and it does not seem like they will be doing so any time soon. Again, contract language could play a decisive role in determining what Brown is owed. It states, “any action that materially undermines the public’s respect for, or is materially critical of, the Club, the Player’s teammates or the Club’s ownership, coaches, management, operations of policies then, upon election of the Club, the guarantees set forth in this section… will be null and void.” This wording is vague, likely intentionally so, but seems to provide grounds which could protect New England from paying Brown.

Accordingly, upon his release, the free agent wide receiver filed a grievance against the team, which will undoubtedly stir up a legal battle that is made more fierce given Brown’s twitter jab at Robert Kraft. In fact, NFL insider, Adam Schefter, cited one source that said Kraft will “never write that check,” meaning that this case is like to go beyond just money-related motives. In any case, Brown’s money is again in jeopardy and estimates show that he is set to collect just under $160,000 in 2019, despite agreeing to two multi-million dollar contracts.

So, if you’re keeping score at home, Brown has lost around a total of $40 million in what was thought to be guaranteed money, and is now a free agent with a high unlikelihood of landing another deal. What’s more, is that although no team has the wide receiver under contract, he will nevertheless account for salary cap money for all three of his former teams. This is referred to as “dead money” and it exists to protect a player’s roster spot and for salary cap accounting purposes. The Steelers are stuck with the shortest end of the stick as Brown holds $21,120,000 of the $188.2 million that has been set as the salary cap for this season. Meanwhile, both the Raiders and Patriots will have dead money in their cap for the next two seasons as it relates to Brown. Oakland will carry a $2 million cap restriction over this year and next, while New England has a hold of roughly $5.5 million for this season and $4.5 million the following, although they will be attempting to recoup that money.

All in all, the Antonio Brown experiment has been a mess for those involved. It appears that he will be out of a job for a while as he claims he has “quit” the NFL. However, after losing his endorsement deal with Nike and another from the helmet manufacturer, Xenith, it would seem that Brown will need another stream of income. While he could presumably land a deal with the CFL or XFL, interestingly enough, Brown announced today that he is re-enrolling at Central Michigan and is taking online courses. The rest of the sports world can only speculate at what Brown will do next, but it is certain that his saga is still far from over.