If Raiders move to Las Vegas, will fans from Oakland follow?
Raiders owner Mark Davis has a lot of nerve. His tone-deaf behavior is nothing short of outrageous. While relocating his NFL franchise to Las Vegas, he wants the team to remain in the Coliseum until the new stadium is constructed in southern Nevada.
You know what that means? What he is asking? What he is assuming? What he is doing?
Las Vegas gets the team. Oakland gets flipped off. Davis essentially is asking Northern California Raiders fans to visit a patient in hospice care at the stinky old facility that caused all the problems in the first place. It’s as if he is saying, “Let’s all light a few candles, hold hands during these final hours, and ensure a peaceful end to a turbulent, exhausting, increasingly frustrating existence.”
Seriously. What a joke. What a pathetic plan. If the NFL owners approve the relocation during their meetings in March, Oakland’s Raiders fan should flee the Coliseum faster than Amelia Earhart on her final flight out of the neighboring international airport.
Boycott the games. Change the channel. Begin the process of emotionally detaching from a team that, after inflicting more than a decade of suffering, after abandoning the region once before, has morphed into one of the league’s most promising, dynamic squads. This is the time for fans to raise their voice, to protest without so much as throwing a rock or shattering a window, to hit Davis where it hurts most – his bank account – and send him off to Las Vegas with empty pockets.
This would also send a message to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, reminding him of his inept stewardship and his model of instability. Assuming owners Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft persuade enough of their colleagues to approve the Raiders relocation during their meetings in March, Goodell will have presided over three prominent franchise relocations within the past two years.
The St. Louis Rams recently completed their first season in Los Angeles. The San Diego Chargers are packing up, preparing to join the Rams at their stadium that is scheduled to open in 2019 and located just down the street from the stage where Magic Johnson and several of his Showtime Lakers danced their way into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Raiders’ anticipated defection to Las Vegas – made possible only because the NFL a year ago blocked a joint Raiders-Chargers venture in Carson – is strike three. Goodell should be out, yet instead, he is given a pass and escorted to first base, mere weeks after swinging his support to southern Nevada.
Davis needs 24 of the league’s 32 owners to approve his escape to Sin City.
While these relocation undertakings are famously unpredictable (see happy ending after tortured journey for Kings fans in Sacramento), there is no David Stern on the top floor of NFL headquarters, reaching out to potential Bay Area investors, hanging with the mayor, while sitting on Davis and preventing any impulsive or erratic behavior.
“From almost 30 years being in the league and attending the owners meetings, it’s too early to make a final judgment on what the owners will do,” said Amy Trask, the former Raiders executive and current CBS Sports football analyst. “When you get closer to the annual meetings in March, that’s the time to take the pulse.”
True, but in a surprisingly short period of time, the momentum has swung mightily toward a Raiders move to Las Vegas with our without the support of Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire who has promised to contribute $650 million to the $1.9 billion stadium deal that includes $750 million in public funding generated by a hike in the hotel-motel tax.
The Raiders last gasp – a proposal from a local group headed by Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott – materialized too late. Davis already had turned his attention from Carson to Las Vegas, consistently declining to negotiate with city officials in Oakland, and wasting no time assembling the needed parts for the trip to the nation’s gaming paradise.
“There has been commentary that, ‘Well, the city of Oakland has not delivered,’ ” said Trask, “but irrespective of what they (Raiders) might be saying, this is the second time in a year that they committed their resources elsewhere, first to L.A., then to Las Vegas. Actions mean more than words. And in my experience, teams have to collaborate with the city for any of these deals to get done.”
The mere fact Davis waited to file for relocation until Goodell suddenly started began speaking favorably about a potential NFL foray to Las Vegas instead of reiterating support for retaining a franchise in Oakland suggests the Raiders owner believes he has the votes. And he probably does.
And if he does? And if Davis follows through on his plan to exercise the one-year options on his Coliseum lease while awaiting construction of his new stadium? My opinion?
Throw him out of the house. Tell him to take his team and go play in UNLV’s antiquated Sam Boyd Stadium instead of torturing Raiders fans with the up-close-and-personal look at Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Khalil Mack, and a young, dynamic team that expects to be a Super Bowl contender next year.
That could still happen, by the way. Though Las Vegas officials contend the Sam Boyd Stadium is inadequate in terms of its 40,000 seating capacity, numbers of suites, and the condition of the locker rooms, UNLV’s athletic director on Friday said the school is amenable to upgrading the facilities and willing to accommodate the Raiders.
“There is a precedent for that,” noted Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney. “When the Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans, they played at Vanderbilt. Oiler fans were so pissed, they were like, ‘Get out here. If you are going to go, then go now.’ My sense is that if the Raiders were 5-11 last year, it wouldn’t be much of an issue. But they could win the Super Bowl next year, which makes it really hard on the fans. Do they go to the games, or is it just too hard? Maybe in the back of his (Davis’) mind, he is waiting for the vote, and then to see how fans would react in Oakland if he went back for the first year.”
The fans should react with a Coliseum of empty seats. Let the boycott begin.