Why Gruden's Departure Means More Trouble for the Raiders


N.F.L. owners in 2017 approved the Oakland Raiders’ plan to relocate to Las Vegas after the team’s failed attempt to return to Los Angeles, where the Raiders played from 1982 to 1995. Many fans embraced the move to Las Vegas, as they felt the city suited the team’s reputation as the bad boys of the N.F.L. Gruden coached the Raiders for two seasons in a stadium they shared with Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics while Davis spearheaded the construction of Allegiant Stadium, a $2-billion jet-black venue. But players competed without audiences when the building opened in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, causing a major loss of revenue.

The distractions didn’t stop even as the pandemic eased. In April, after a jury convicted Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer, of murdering George Floyd, the Raiders’ official Twitter account posted a graphic that read “I Can Breathe.” Chauvin, who is white, knelt on the neck of Floyd, a Black man, for over nine minutes, and Floyd’s cries of “I Can’t Breathe” ignited months of protests and a racial reckoning across the country. Davis took responsibility for the post, which he said he “meant no disrespect.” Still, it received widespread criticism and has not been deleted.

Three months later, Marc Badain, the longtime popular president of the Raiders who started as an intern in 1991, abruptly resigned, saying only that he wanted to “focus on my family and look ahead to new pursuits.” The team’s chief financial officer and comptroller had also recently departed.

Addressing the Gruden episode falls to Davis, the son of the former team owner Al Davis, who made a series of influential decisions during his tenure and died in 2011. Al Davis hired Amy Trask, the first female chief executive in the N.F.L., in 1997. Tom Flores, who is Mexican American, was the first Latino coach in the N.F.L. to win a Super Bowl, winning two with the Raiders, in the 1980 and 1983 seasons. The team also drafted Eldridge Dickey, the first Black quarterback taken in the first round, in 1968, when the Raiders played in the A.F.L. In June, Mark Davis was supportive when Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib became the first openly gay N.F.L. player on an active roster.

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