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Raiders reportedly closer to finding a home for 2019, but the story is getting even crazier

How about this idea: the Ala-zona Raiders

Indianapolis Colts v Oakland Raiders Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

When we last left this tale on February 4, the Oakland Raiders had been reported to have made a deal to play their 2019 home games at Oracle Park, which is the home of the San Francisco Giants.

Even at the time, we knew there were two potential obstacles to that deal: the Raiders would need the approval of both the NFL and the San Francisco 49ers — and as we pointed out the last time, the 49ers could easily have had an incentive to say no.

The following day, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the 49ers were “not expected” to waive their territorial rights. Meanwhile, San Francisco mayor London Breed was unequivocal in her reaction.

“As far as I’m concerned, the Oakland Raiders should play in Oakland,” she told KTVU, adding that the city already had plenty of problems relating to the construction of the new Chase Center for the Golden State Warriors. “We don’t need another layer to add to what we already have — and that’s an area that’s really congested — filled with construction — and will host a number of basketball and baseball games over the coming months.”

Five days later — on February 9 — ABC7’s Larry Beil reported that the Raiders and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum were back at the negotiating table to work out a deal for the Raiders to play their 2019 home games in Oakland before moving to their new Las Vegas stadium in 2020.

“I will confirm that we, late last week, started sitting down and talking with the Raiders about the potential of a 2019 season deal,” Coliseum Authority executive director Scott McKibben told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Tuesday. “In my view, the discussions have been meaningful and productive.”

The two sides had walked away from the negotiating table in December, after the city sued the Raiders over their pending move to Las Vegas. Once talks broke off, though, the Raiders seemed to be in no hurry to find a new home. Quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle in late December, Raiders owner Mark Davis said the team had “options” for where to play in 2019 and would “look at those when the season’s over.”

So now the two sides are reported to be talking again — and an agreement between them for 2019 would probably be the best result for every party involved.

But wait! There’s more!

How about the Ala-zona Raiders?

If the idea of the Raiders playing all their home games in London wasn’t crazy enough, on Tuesday, the world began to learn of what might be an even crazier plan: that the cities of Tucson, Arizona, and Birmingham, Alabama, would share the Raiders’ home schedule.

In a story published Tuesday in the Arizona Daily Star, the plan was cooked up Tucson attorney Ali Farhang and Birmingham city council member William Parker.

Under the new plan, released to the Star on Monday night, the cities would split the hosting duties next season. Arizona Stadium holds 57,400 people and is home to the UA football team and the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl. Birmingham’s Legion Field has a larger capacity — 71,500 — and hosts the UAB college team, the Alliance of American Football’s Birmingham Iron and the annual Birmingham Bowl.

According to the Star, Farhang contacted the Raiders in January to express Tucson’s interest. Then it appears he learned of Parker’s interest in hosting the Raiders in Birmingham from a story published in the Birmingham News on Friday and thought that his approach to the Raiders would carry more weight if another city was involved; the Daily Star story said that Sanders and Farhang “are optimistic that a combined effort will lead to more substantive talks between Raiders owner Mark Davis and the cities.”

“The fans in Alabama love football,” said Sanders in the Friday Birmingham News story that apparently caught Farhang’s attention. “Obviously, the people in San Francisco and Oakland don’t want them and there’s a fan base here for the Raiders.”

Sanders was also quoted as saying he “got calls from a lot of citizens saying they’ve been Raiders fans since they were kids.”

But it’s not clear other officials in Birmingham were aware of — much less on board with — Sanders and Farhang’s plan, as reported by the Birmingham News on Tuesday.

City Council President Valerie Abbott pressed Mayor Woodfin for details on Councilor William Parker’s plan because “I haven’t found a council member who knows anything,” saying she first heard of her colleague’s idea last week from a press release.

But Woodfin said he was similarly blindsided.

“I’m unable to communicate anything to you about a proposal, so I couldn’t articulate it to you,” the mayor told Abbott at Tuesday’s council meeting. “There has been nobody on our team that has talked to the Raiders organization, so there’s nothing I can tell you because I don’t know.”

So while the story of this plan has been widely reported on Twitter — and even propagated by other sports news outlets — it appears to be little more than a harebrained scheme cooked up by two people who don’t necessarily speak for their respective cities.

As Kansas City Chiefs fans, it’s been amusing to monitor this insane story since mid-December, but now things are starting to get serious. This is from our December 27 story:

According to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the Raiders will have to have something figured out before February so that the NFL can begin its scheduling process. So that’s a lot of uncertainty for a situation that will have to be resolved in the next six weeks.

It’s now six weeks later. Enough is enough.

After dragging their feet through the end of the season and stonewalling through the postseason, the Raiders have finally come back to the table with the city of Oakland.

Hopefully, they can agree on terms to do the logical, sane thing: play in the Coliseum for one more season.

But the clock continues to tick.

31 other NFL franchises know where they will play their 2019 games. But they cannot plan other events in their stadiums — something that most of them depend upon as revenue streams — until they know when their venues will be used for NFL football. With each passing day, the situation becomes more acute.

The NFL will fine players thousands of dollars for an exuberant gesture on the playing field. When will it take concrete action to force an owner to solve a problem that should have been solved — in principle, at least — before even proposing a permanent move to another city?

Why should every other NFL franchise — whose ducks are already in a row — be left waiting simply because Mark Davis wants to throw a fit?

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