The NFL’s ratification of the Raiders’ proposal to move to Las Vegas came as a huge blow to the team’s fans. One very small way to make it up to those supporters is by mandating that the team leave its name behind in Oakland, which would also make sense for the league.
If that were to happen, of course, then the franchise would have to choose a new name. Here’s a suggestion: The Las Vegas Sinners.
Think about it — what better tie to the team’s new home, also known as “Sin City”? The NFL already has a franchise called the Saints, so Sinners would set up an always-fun contrast when they play, and it would be very much in keeping with the Raiders’ long-standing bad-boy image.
It has become beyond clear that the NFL, and Raiders owner Mark Davis in particular, are more interested in playing hardball with cities over public funding for stadiums than in doing right by passionate fan bases. With the team planning on staying put for between one and three more years, while it awaits construction of its $1.9 billion Las Vegas facility, Davis has promised to honor requests from Oakland fans for refunds of their season-ticket payments, but he could take an extra step to create a modicum of goodwill.
Raiders fans are known for their outlandish costumes at Oakland Coliseum’s “Black Hole,” and the last thing they need to see in a few years is an attempt to re-create that unique atmosphere in Vegas. Besides, given that the team’s current mascot is a pirate, what sense does that make in a city famous for being plopped in the middle of a desert?
Yes, other teams have moved and brought names that don’t quite fit their new environs. But people still make fun of the incongruity of “Utah Jazz,” while the equally conceptually dubious “Los Angeles Lakers” benefits from mellifluous alliteration. Meanwhile, many fans in Baltimore, even after the Ravens’ great success there, still chafe at the existence of Indianapolis Colts, with their all-too-familiar horseshoe helmets.
The Ravens came into being as part of a legal settlement in which Browns owner Art Modell was forced to leave that team’s name and colors behind when he moved it to Baltimore in 1996 (much the same thing happened when the Seattle SuperSonics moved and became the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008). The NFL would be wise to consider the possibility that we haven’t seen the last of professional football in Oakland, or at least the Bay Area, particularly given that region’s immense wealth and demonstrated passion for the sport.
In fact, now that the relocation music has stopped, at least for the time being, and chairs are suddenly being filled by Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the NFL has lost two cities that it long used while threatening other municipalities to pony up for stadium funds. It would not be a surprise to see Oakland emerge as a potential site for future franchise moves, and what better way to keep fans there invested (literally, in some cases) in that scenario than by holding out the hope of getting a team called the Raiders back in their lives?
In the meantime, many Raiders fans have expressed great dismay, as one would expect, at the loss of their beloved squad. They have described it as “a slap in the face” and “a stab in the back,” so at least they should be allowed to hang onto their team’s iconic name and look, if not the franchise itself. By adopting a rule that teams would have to change names if they change cities, the NFL would be sending a message to relocation-minded owners that while they might gain major new streams of revenue, they would have to lose something in the process.
The eventual fans in Vegas (the stadium is expected to be ready in time for the 2020 season) would also get something of value for the $750 million in public funding they’re chipping in via a tax on hotel rooms. They would get their own identity, as well as a chance to feel less guilty about stealing another city’s franchise (not that feelings of guilt are much encouraged in Sin City).
A petition at Change.org filed by a Nevada resident reflects just such a sentiment, stating, “Most of us citizens would be OVER JOYED to have a NFL team in our town. … BUT — we are asking for the name of the team and the colors to be changed, perhaps voted on or some county wide contest. …
“This is Las Vegas, we want a fresh start, we want a fresh team — we want to start our own legacy not be part of someone else’s.”
Of course, “Sinners” is just a suggestion, and there have been many other new names proposed in the wake of the announced move. But Davis has acknowledged that fan unrest might force him to move out of Oakland before the Las Vegas stadium is ready, and given a likely interim destination, “San Antonio Sinners” has a pretty good, alliterative ring to it, as well (although the Raiders’ silver-and-black scheme would fit right in there).
Sure, the Raiders have already moved with their name once, or twice if you count the forward-and-back from their 12-year stint in Los Angeles. But that doesn’t make this experience less heartbreaking for fans in Oakland, where the team has been since 1995 and for most of its history. Besides, by that logic, it’s worth pointing out that the franchise has also changed its name before, as it was originally called the “Señors,” if only for a few days.
From the “Señors” to the “Sinners” — this writer, for one, likes it.