Ray Perez, who goes by “Dr. Death” at Raiders games, stood out of the rain under a portable tent in the Coliseum parking lot, his features hidden by silver and black paint, long black dreadlocks and a bladed helmet, his jersey pulled over football shoulder pads, and said:
“I almost didn’t dress up today.”
The West Sacramento resident thought about using Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs to protest the latest development in the Raiders’ long-running relocation saga. The team took a step toward a potential move to Las Vegas on Friday when Nevada lawmakers approved a bill to hike hotel taxes to raise $750 million toward a new $1.9 billion football stadium that would house the Raiders and UNLV’s team. Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the bill Monday.
“I will not go to Vegas,” Perez said before the Raiders’ 26-10 loss to the Chiefs. “As a Raider fan, I’m embarrassed. They’re raising taxes for a billionaire (Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson), and they have schools under-funded. Putting Raiderdom aside, I’m embarrassed as an American to be a part of this.”
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Not all fans tailgating at the Coliseum on Sunday morning were so incensed by the recent developments. Perhaps the rain pelting the parking lot subdued them. Perhaps Raiders fans have become numb to repeated threats of having their team pack up and leave.
It happened in 1982 when iconic owner Al Davis moved the Raiders to Los Angeles. It happened again in 1995 when Davis moved the franchise back to Oakland. Earlier this year, a proposed move to Carson did not garner the necessary support in a vote of NFL owners.
Following the Nevada Legislature’s approval of public funds for a new Las Vegas stadium, Raiders owner Mark Davis called the proposed facility the “proud new home for the entire Raider Nation.”
Still, a handful of fans tailgating Sunday expressed cautious optimism that, despite the tone of Davis’ comments, the team isn’t going anywhere.
I will not go to Vegas. As a Raider fan, I’m embarrassed. They’re raising taxes for a billionaire (Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson), and they have schools under-funded. Putting Raiderdom aside, I’m embarrassed as an American to be a part of this.
Ray Perez, Raiders fan from West Sacramento
“Honestly, I don’t react,” said Tam Sugayan of Newark. “We were in the same situation when the Carson thing happened. They approved the money, and the NFL flat-out denied the Raiders.
“(Davis) still has to get 24 out of 32 (owners’) votes. Until I see that he gets the 24 votes, I’m not worried about nothing.”
The Raiders need three-quarters of NFL owners to approve a move, with a vote likely at the owners’ meetings in January.
“Carson was a done deal before they walked into the room and voted,” said Gary Dowell of San Leandro. “Anything that comes out of their mouth until they vote is all smoke.”
Dowell and others provided a list of reasons the NFL would resist a Raiders move to Las Vegas. It would mean leaving the sixth-largest media market in the United States – albeit one that also has the 49ers – for the 40th-largest. It would mean taking a team out of an area swelling from the tech boom. It would place the nation’s most popular sport into a gambling hotbed.
“If they go, the first time there’s a fumble that causes them not to cover the point spread, people are going to turn on the NFL,” Dowell said. “They don’t want that.”
But most significant, fans said, would be the gulf between a game experience in Oakland and one in Las Vegas. Several gestured toward the thriving tailgate scene Sunday amid the rain, while recalling fan support that remained mostly constant the last 13 seasons even though the Raiders never posted a winning record in that span.
“You’re expecting 30 percent of the (Las Vegas) stadium to be filled with tourists? What kind of fan base is that?” said Chris Feist. “This is the fan base right here – in Oakland, L.A. even.”
Feist, 42, and his father, Frank, had a different perspective on the Vegas issue than most fans at Sunday’s game: They live in Nevada, making the trip from Reno.
“I honestly don’t think they will (move),” Frank Feist said. “I think that (Davis is) using this as leverage, to get somebody to poke up some money.”
Oakland city officials have vowed not to spend public money on a new stadium for the Raiders and said they are trying to develop a stadium plan that would keep the team and protect taxpayers. Along with public funds, the Las Vegas proposal reportedly is backed by $650 million from Adelson, along with a $500 million pledge from Davis.
“(Oakland) needs some tech billionaire to come up and say, ‘Here, I’ll give you a half a billion dollars,’ ” Feist said.
Until that happens, though, Raiders fans may need to consider Las Vegas a real threat. If the team did move to their home state, the Feists said, they’d attend “maybe one game.”
“It’s not the same,” said Frank Feist.
You’re expecting 30 percent of the (Las Vegas) stadium to be filled with tourists? What kind of fan base is that? This is the fan base right here – in Oakland, L.A. even.
Chris Feist, Raiders fan from Reno
On Saturday, Davis told ESPN that even if a move to Las Vegas is approved, he would keep the team in Oakland through 2018, with options at the Coliseum already in place for the next two seasons. For Oakland fans, that scenario would equate to an extended goodbye.
“Would I come to those two years? I don’t know,” said Dowell. “I’d have to sit down with my wife and have a long discussion about, ‘Do I want to put more money in Mark’s pocket?’ That’s what it would be – giving him more money.”
Dowell, though, is holding out hope he will avert that conversation. The Raiders were 4-1 entering Sunday, their best start to a season since 2002. For a rare Sunday, Dowell was getting ready to cheer on a first-place team.
“We’re going to enjoy this season,” he said. “We’ll worry about it in January.”