The Raiders to Las Vegas. Well, you knew this day was inevitable. The NFL owners were tired of Mark Davis’ whining, unimpressed with Ronnie Lott’s stadium proposal, equally unmoved by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s partisan pleas, and just plain sick of the Raiders’ chronic issues.
So off they go. On the road again. Oakland. Los Angeles. Oakland. Las Vegas. The franchise that for decades treated its fan base like a dumping ground – consistent with the state of the stadium off Interstate 880 and Hegenberger Road – received overwhelming support Monday in its attempts to relocate to southern Nevada, with the Miami Dolphins casting the lone dissenting vote.
And Davis really thinks his club can play its games at the Coliseum the next two seasons while his state-of-the-art stadium is being constructed in the desert heat? That he can hang out at his familiar Hooters and hide in his suite, and that this is OK? That all will be forgiven?
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If Davis had a heart (which he doesn’t) or a clue (he apparently doesn’t have one of those, either) he could minimize the impact of the separation by finding other accommodations. In essence, he is divorcing his fan base yet asking to share the same house until the documents are finalized, or in this case, until that stadium in Las Vegas is near completion.
“The Raiders were born in Oakland and Oakland will always be part of our DNA,” Davis said in a statement released by the team after the vote was announced inside a Phoenix-area hotel. “We know that some fans will be disappointed, and even angry. But we hope that they do not direct that frustration to the players, coaches and staff. We plan to play at the Coliseum in 2017 and 2018, and hope to stay there as the Oakland Raiders until the new stadium opens. We would love nothing more than to bring a championship back to the Bay Area.”
Audacity? Narcissism? Insanity? Who does this to a famously loyal fan base that supported a franchise in good times and in bad, even after the late Al Davis abandoned the market for a taste of Hollywood?
Unless the NFL intervenes and ends the charade, most reasonably by forcing the Raiders to accept housing at the 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium until their 65,000-seat, $1.9 billion domed structure is completed, Raiders fans should bar the Coliseum doors, figuratively. They no longer have an NFL franchise, but they have a choice, and they have a voice. Their displeasure should be aimed directly at the villain in charge: Mark Davis.
The son of the father. The sins, too. Mark Davis has been itching to leave Oakland since his father’s death in 2011. He constantly inquired about other markets and potential venues, and never engaged Alameda county and Oakland city officials in the type of prolonged, grueling negotiations that routinely precede arena, stadium and ballpark deals. His lack of interest in getting a deal in Oakland was increasingly obvious, by his distance, by his absence, by his refusal to be present.
Lott’s proposal? Schaaf’s last-second plea? None of it matters, because it was never going to happen, because the NFL rarely does the right thing. Commissioner Roger Goodell lacks the gravitas and creativity of former NBA Commissioner David Stern, who at the very least would have brought the parties to the table. Goodell talked a good game – and appeared to genuinely prefer keeping the Raiders in Oakland – but delivered a plate of bologna.
Under his watch, and in just the past 15 months, the St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers moved to Los Angeles, the Raiders head off to Las Vegas, all while his owners beat their chests over the $750 million in southern Nevada hotel tax revenue that contributed mightily to Monday’s overwhelming vote.
Again, Davis had options. The Jets and Giants share a stadium in New Jersey. The Rams and Chargers are preparing to co-exist near the old Hollywood Park grounds. The Raiders could have – and should have – moved into Levi’s Stadium with the 49ers years ago. Former Raiders CEO Amy Trask did her due diligence. She not only pursued a Raiders-49ers housing plan, she believes this might have been the Raiders’ best option. But Davis (yes, him again) was never serious and, without a committed partner, a Raiders-49ers deal was a non-starter.
So while several details of the Las Vegas move will take months to finalize, among them a stadium lease and development agreement with UNLV, envision the sights and sounds of the Raiders’ departure. No more Black Hole. No more crazy tailgate parties and traffic clogging I-880. No more stunning Sunday afternoons, with the low clouds kissing the East Bay hills, and providing a uniquely Northern California backdrop. No more Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Khalil Mack. No more Super Bowl dreams for the home team.
Instead, after a decade of frustration and futility, Oakland fans are left grin and bear it, or turn their backs on Mark Davis, and turn away. A suggestion? Turn away before things get even uglier.