Oakland Raiders

‘Why now?’ Greg Papa talks about why he’s no longer the Raiders’ radio announcer

Sports announcer Greg Papa, right, hugs Houston Astros infielder Miguel Tejada before a game May 12, 2008, at the Giants’ AT&T Park. Papa, who has been the radio voice of the Raiders since 1997, is reportedly being replaced by Brent Musburger.
Sports announcer Greg Papa, right, hugs Houston Astros infielder Miguel Tejada before a game May 12, 2008, at the Giants’ AT&T Park. Papa, who has been the radio voice of the Raiders since 1997, is reportedly being replaced by Brent Musburger. Sacramento Bee file

Greg Papa spoke publicly for the first time since being fired as the Raiders’ radio voice after 21 years in the role Monday on his radio show.

Papa said his firing stems from early 2015, when he criticized Raiders owner Mark Davis on the same radio show he hosted Monday for considering former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan for Oakland’s head-coaching job (Jack Del Rio eventually won the job). The late Al Davis wasn’t fond of Shanahan in the slightest, and Papa felt it a disservice to Al’s legacy that his son considered a former foe for the Raiders’ gig.

He made it his mission to carry on Al’s legacy after he died on Oct. 8, 2011, and has likened Al to a second father in the past.

Papa said the rift between he and Mark never subsided, and ultimately led to the events of the past couple weeks.

“The reason it happened the way it did involves this very radio program,” Papa said. “It goes back to January of 2015 when the Raiders were looking for a new head coach … There was a report that came to light about 15 minutes before my radio show one day – I think it was a Monday – that the Raiders would interview Mike Shanahan to be the head coach of the team.

“I had known this for about a week and a half before … I’d kinda got pushed into a corner. You know me, I’m outspoken. I felt it to be beyond my comprehension – it still is – that Mike Shanahan could interview to be the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Knowing how much Al Davis loathed him, it just couldn’t happen.”

Former Raiders Bill Romanowski and Rod Woodson were in studio that Monday, Papa said, advocating for Shanahan to be the Raiders’ next head coach.

“I was extremely outspoken about how it could not happen, in my opinion,” Papa said. “I threatened to quit as the voice of the team and I would have no association with him. The reason I was doing it was my love and respect for Al Davis.”

Raiders president Marc Badain texted Papa on July 2 hoping to meet for drinks later in the week, he said, but Papa was in the Los Angeles area on vacation. Papa asked what was up, and Badain said it was better if he told Papa in person.

“I had heard some rumblings … that something may be going on,” said Papa, who added the timing of the text so late in the offseason led him to believe it wasn’t about his firing. He said there had been discussions earlier in the offseason about expanding his role with the organization.

They met on July 5, and Badain informed Papa he was losing his job. (“Marc and I get along great,” Papa said, for what it’s worth.) Papa asked Badain, “Why now?” and Badain said, “We’ve been doing this for 3 1/2 years, and I bought you 3 1/2 years.”

“The question is, ‘Why now?’” Papa said, “and I don’t have that answer … This is not Al Davis’ football team anymore, and maybe that’s my own mistake.

“I don’t fit anymore with this team … I just don’t fit anymore. I wish them luck. It’s gonna be a hard year for me.”

Shortly after Badain’s introduction as Raiders president in the same press conference Del Rio was introduced in 2015, Badain asked to have dinner with Papa. Badain recommended he fix things with Mark, Papa said, and Papa called Mark the following morning.

“The phone conversation did not go well,” Papa said. “He wound up hanging up on me. I don’t know exactly what he wanted me to say, if he wanted me to apologize for my feelings. I said ‘I’m sorry you feel this way. It was not a direct shot at you. Sometimes I just feel there’s nobody around here to defend Al.’”

Papa insists he’s not sorry to this day about his criticism of Davis for considering Shanahan.

“We never were able to mend fences, Mark Davis and I,” Papa said. “Whenever we were around each other, standing right next to each other many, many times. I reached out to him to say hi, he ignored me. I thought over time it would dissipate. I thought over time, especially with Jon Gruden coming back, that it would really go away.”

Papa also mentioned a Marcus Allen pregame torch lighting he found out about the Friday before a Sunday game. Davis hated Allen and Shanahan, a well-known fact, and felt Mark’s actions “crossed a line.”

Papa said he was never asked about moving with the Raiders to Las Vegas. He never told the team he wouldn’t go, and even said he’d be open to calling games for the Las Vegas Raiders. Brent Musburger, who currently resides in Vegas, will replace Papa. Former Raiders offensive lineman Lincoln Kennedy will replace Tom Flores as the color commentator.

“It’s painful for me, personally, to lose association with this particular team,” Papa said.

Papa made an appearance at the Raiders’ facility in Alameda shortly before they broke for the summer. Gruden, who Papa said initially wanted to increase his role with the organization, walked into the media workroom and said, “There’s Greg Papa … Touchdown, Rrrrrrrrrraiders,” after Papa’s signature touchdown call.

“This is happening because of my deep, deep love for the patriarch of this franchise,” Papa said.

He and co-host Bonta Hill took calls from listeners expressing their gratitude toward Papa, one of which was an 18-year-old heading to college this fall to study broadcasting. He said Papa inspired him to do so, and asked him for one piece of advice.

Papa joked, “I guess my advice to you would be to get along with ownership better.”

Papa said he’ll call some college football this coming season and possibly some NFL.

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