Credit former Raiders RB Napoleon McCallum for the idea that brought NFL to Las Vegas

By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers

The real credit for bringing the NFL Raiders to Las Vegas should go to Napoleon McCallum.

The former Raiders running back, who starred at the Naval Academy, is the idea man behind the move, said Chase Whittemore of Argentum Partners — the lobbying team that successfully pushed through $750 million in public funding for the Raiders stadium at the Legislature last year.

Whittemore told the story last week on Nevada Newsmakers. Others close to the story back him up.


Here’s how it worked: McCallum is employed by the Las Vegas Sands Corp., owned by the Sheldon Adelson family, where McCallum does a lot of community outreach.

He is also friends, naturally, with the Raiders owner, Mark Davis, since he’s part of the Raider family of former players.

Go back to 2015. As Whittemore’s story goes, McCallum first had a conversation with Davis. At the time, Davis was frustrated and disheartened with the team’s financial situation in Oakland.

Veteran Nevadan Journalist Ray Hagar is known for fair and tough reporting and invigorating commentary.

A few days after talking to Davis, McCallum was back at work for the Sands, talking to TJ Foley and Andy Abboud of the Sands government affairs team.

That’s when McCallum has his light-bulb moment, said Whittemore.

“He (McCallum) has worked there (Sands) for years and is a close (Adelson) family friend and he says, ‘You know, I was just talking to Mark Davis and they are not really happy with Oakland, so what do you think about bringing the Raiders to Las Vegas?’

After a pause, Foley said, “Actually, that is not a bad idea, Napoleon.”

It lit the fuse.

“So then they said, ‘Let’s take a look at it,'” Whittemore said. “‘Let’s bring it to our investment committee and bring it to Mr. Adelson.’ And they did … And here we are.”

After McCallum’s idea, Adelson and Davis formed an investment partnership to bring the Raiders to Las Vegas. Adelson later pulled out of that plan after balking at the Raiders proposed lease agreement. Yet Bank of America jumped in to fill the investor void and the project continued.

Adelson had already gotten the project going. His lobbyists and representatives had done all the heavy lifting with the Legislature to secure the $750 million in public funding.

THAT $750 MILLION in public funding from the Legislature was the key ingredient.

With that kind of public money, the NFL owners had an offer they could not refuse. Las Vegas’ $750 million pledge is the largest stack of public money for any NFL stadium, ever.

It set quite a precedent for the owners. Before Las Vegas, public money for stadiums was getting to be a scarce commodity. It is why the Chargers left San Diego and why, you could argue, the Raiders are leaving Oakland. Cities seemed to be going in the opposite direction, bemoaning public funding of NFL stadiums as a bad investment for taxpayers.

“You knew that the NFL was not going to walk away from that kind of public funding. That is why it (NFL owners vote to move to Las Vegas)  was 31-1 because they love that precedent,” said former state Sen. Warren Hardy, now principal of the The Hardy Consulting Group.

THE RAIDERS’ PLAYERS and front-office personnel will realize a windfall profit when the team moves to Las Vegas, according to Sports Illustrated.

In Oakland, the Raiders players and personnel are subject to the largest state income tax in the U.S. For the players who make more than $1 million annually, that tax is 13 percent. Those who make less than $1 million annually are subject to a state income tax between 12 and 10 percent.

Nevada has no state income tax. So the Raiders take-home pay will show a sharp increase.

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