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ESPN’s Clayton: Don’t bet on old-school NFL owners approving Las Vegas

SAN FRANCISCO — Lamar Hunt was creative, clever, a visionary, as forward a thinker as the NFL has known. I wonder what the late owner of the Kansas City Chiefs would have thought about the league housing a team in Las Vegas. I wonder if he would have seen the big picture in it like he did so many of the other historical changes he initiated.

The man thought of the name Super Bowl, for goodness sakes. He helped bring about the merger of the AFL and NFL.

You think he would have understood football in Las Vegas for more than sports books.

Hunt died in 2006, and the Chiefs are now run by his son, Clark.

Here's an idea for Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis as Super Bowl 50 between Carolina and Denver on Sunday at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, approaches: Ask for the support from an AFC West rival if there comes a time when Las Vegas indeed builds a proposed domed stadium and Davis is ready to pack his bags for the desert.

Maybe the son of Lamar Hunt has a bit of the old man's imagination and would push the idea with other owners.

Maybe there is another visionary in Kansas City who can see the big picture.

John Clayton isn't so sure anything will help the Las Vegas cause when it comes to chasing an NFL dream, that within a group of 32 owners in which the average age is 70 exists far too high a level of established opinions against the idea.

"A lot of old-school owners go back to a time when they remember days of fixing games in sports and betting scandals with Pete Rose, and they would be worried about their football players living in Las Vegas," said Clayton, longtime ESPN writer and TV reporter. "As a city, they love Las Vegas. But their concern would be how players would react in such an environment. This is their game, and if they ever put that carrot out there, they'd be worried about what could happen with 80 to 90 guys during a training camp and then a team there year-round.

"I don't know why the Joseph Randle story came out now, but it sure seemed to be suspicious timing about a player who might have been betting. I don't know if he did it or not, but the timing of that leaked story, or whatever it was, tells you the NFL is worried about this issue."

Randle is the former Dallas Cowboys running back who allegedly gambled on sports before being waived. The Dallas Morning News cited four sources who said Randle "had been involved in placing wagers on sporting events during the 2015 season."

He was released in November, and no team claimed him off waivers.

Dallas owner Jerry Jones has said there is no evidence that shows Randle could have compromised any Cowboys games because of betting, but you get the picture: Even the hint of such a possible scandal scares the you-know-what out of the NFL and further strengthens the league's contention that allowing a franchise to set up shop just off the Strip is a bad idea.

Owners can be a stubborn lot, as can a commissioner who continues to promote a hypocritical stance against sports gaming given how much his league benefits from such action and how regulated betting is throughout Nevada.

Roger Goodell didn't take any questions regarding Las Vegas at his annual Super Bowl news conference Friday, but he did speak to sports gambling in regard to daily fantasy football. He again offered an opinion that, when reading between the rhetoric, further supports the idea Goodell would go to the proverbial wall to dissuade any notion of a Las Vegas team.

"The primary interest I have is the integrity of the game," said Goodell, amazingly with a straight face. "So, that's why we've opposed sports gambling in the past. When it comes to daily fantasy, I think there's a different issue here. There are different issues that are raised that are not raised with sports gambling or traditional sports gambling."

Said Clayton: "I'm not saying new-school owners would be in favor of a team in Las Vegas, but I can guarantee you the old-school ones wouldn't be. I don't think it ever happens. Never."

That's a long time, and yet it might take as much to change some old-school views.

Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be a heard on "Seat and Ed" on Fox Sports 1340 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Twitter: @edgraney

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