Raiders’ slow exit painful for fans
The slow, agonizing demise of the Oakland Raiders will continue for at least one more season.
There will be one more “final” home game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, on Dec. 15 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
There have been possible “final” home games for a few years now because the Raiders have had one foot out the door since 2015, when they joined with the AFC West rival Chargers in a failed attempt to build a stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson.
This time, though, it almost certainly will be farewell for one of the NFL’s most recognizable teams and fan bases.
The Raiders are scheduled to move into a gleaming new $1.8 billion, 65,000-seat stadium in Las Vegas in 2020. The climate-controlled palace — funded in part with $750 million in public money — will make the Coliseum look like a relic.
It will be the second time the Raiders have moved since Chris Dobbins, 47, has been a fan.
This time, they won’t be back.
“Oh, it’s disastrous,” said Dobbins, an attorney who is co-founder and president of Save Oakland Sports. “In terms of twice in my lifetime when the team’s left, it’s very depressing.”
The Raiders have been the definition of lame ducks. Their move to Las Vegas was approved by the NFL in March 2017, but they’ve had to stay in Oakland until the new stadium is ready. They explored other options for this season, then agreed to a lease in Oakland for this year, plus an option for 2020 in case the Las Vegas stadium isn’t ready.
Fans know the end is near.
“This is the ultimate ‘Hard Knocks’ for Oakland Raider fans who have now lost their team for the second time,” said Andy Dolich, a long-time sports executive and Bay Area sports fan. He was referring to the HBO series that featured the Raiders this year.
Of course, relocations are nothing new in the NFL.
Some are quick, like the Baltimore Colts escaping to Indianapolis in Mayflower moving vans in the middle of the night.
Others are drawn out and painful. They tear at the fabric of communities and rip fan bases apart, with some swearing allegiance to their team no matter where it plays, while others stay loyal to the soil and cut ties for good. Bitter Twitter exchanges rage between fans angry about losing their teams and new fans who say the affected cities didn’t do enough to keep the NFL.
Many jilted fans swear off the NFL itself, saying the league cares more about money than them.
Once the Raiders are in Las Vegas, the recent wave of relocations of three teams will have affected five markets, with Los Angeles gaining two teams, and St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland losing America’s most popular sport.
With the NFL looking to end its 22-year absence from Los Angeles — which had been a nice bargaining chip for owners elsewhere to wrangle new stadium deals — the Rams won the race for the nation’s second-largest city. Stan Kroenke, one of the league’s richest owners, dazzled his peers with plans for a nearly $5 billion stadium complex in Inglewood. The Rams were given approval in January 2016 to leave St. Louis and return to their former home.