The Oakland Raiders have decided on a home stadium for 2019.
But that doesn’t yet mean that’s where they’ll be playing.
On Sunday night, San Francisco television news anchor Raj Mathai tweeted that the Raiders have reached an agreement with the San Francisco Giants to use their Oracle Park (formerly AT&T Park) for their home games in 2019.
#BREAKING: #Raiders will play in San Francisco for 2019 season. Team reaches deal w/ #SFGiants to use #OraclePark (formerly #ATTPark). Announcement expected this week. (per my @NFL sources). #RaiderNation #SuperBowl53 #NFL pic.twitter.com/anr0zQOqtX— Raj Mathai (@rajmathai) February 4, 2019
Meanwhile, Scott Bair of NBC Sports is reporting that Mathai’s tweet might be premature.
The Raiders continue to discuss with the Giants the possibility of playing the 2019 NFL season at Oracle Park, multiple Giants sources told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic on Sunday night, but a deal is not done yet. NFL sources confirmed those facts and emphasized that nothing has been finalized.
Bair said that the Raiders did not respond to multiple requests for comment and that the Giants are “under the impression that the Raiders still were checking on two other potential sites.”
The Raiders are backed into a corner.
Their new stadium in Las Vegas won’t be ready until the 2020 season. They are embroiled in a legal fight with the city of Oakland, which is suing the team over their move to Las Vegas. There appears to be no way for the city and the Raiders to simply put aside their differences and play one more season in the Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. Since December, all kinds of options have been floating around — including the possibility that the Raiders might play their home games in London!
But this reported deal with the Giants for Oracle Park isn’t the last word on the story.
For one thing, the NFL has to approve it.
For another, the San Francisco 49ers would have to approve it too, because Oracle Park lies within the area in which the 49ers have territorial rights.
As far as we know, neither the NFL or the 49ers have yet signed off on this deal.
In the meantime, the clock is ticking. The NFL can’t start figuring out the 2019 schedule — an extremely complicated process with a large set of variables to consider — until they know where the Raiders are going to play their home games. The league had previously said that the Raiders needed to get this issue resolved “before January or February,” but obviously that hasn’t happened.
Last week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “We need to make a schedule for the 2019 season and the sooner the better for us with that.”
So there is plenty of incentive for the NFL to just go along with whatever the Raiders decide. But getting the approval of the 49ers could be more of a problem.
Back in December, KGO-TV reported that Santa Clara officials were exploring the possibility that the Raiders could play in Levi’s Stadium, where the 49ers play. (Oddly enough, at the time, the Raiders had not yet expressed interest in doing so). The stadium was actually built to accommodate two franchises. Is it possible that the 49ers could stand in the way of this deal for the Raiders in Oracle Park, hoping to force the Raiders into using Levi’s Stadium?
The 49ers could stand to benefit — not only from the possibility that they could conceivably make a deal with Santa Clara for reduced rent in 2019 — but also from the opportunity they would have to show off the facility to Raiders fans whose team will soon be playing eight hours away; the 49ers could see this as a chance to build their fan base.
Whatever happens, it will have to be soon. The NFL needs to get the computers cranking on the 2019 schedule as soon as possible.