SAN LEANDRO, California – Ivan Davis stared stone-faced at the television as the news came down that the Oakland Raiders would be moving to Las Vegas and was asked if he was a fan of the team.
“I used to be,” he responded.
Davis has been a Raiders fan for about a half-century, celebrating Super Bowl titles, enduring long stretches of losing and sticking by them even during a 13-year move to Los Angeles. But the NFL’s 31-1 vote Monday to approve owner Mark Davis’ application to move the team to Las Vegas will be the final straw that ends his support.
“All the Raiders fans my age, no way you can do it,” he said. “Anyone who lived through the first one will not support them. The older Raiders fans, you lost them forever. The ones who gave their life blood to you, you lost them forever.”
Ivan Davis was one of a handful of fans that showed up at the team’s unofficial sports bar, Ricky’s Sports Theatre and Grill, where the walls are decorated with memorabilia honoring the team.
A few other fans showed up at the team’s facility in Alameda but there were no big protests. That didn’t lessen the emotions of the team’s dedicated fans in the East Bay who regularly came to games in costumes even during a stretch of 13 straight seasons without a playoff berth that ended this past season.
“We’re sick and tired of just being pawns,” said Rob Rivera, the president of the Black Hole fan club. “Putting up with 13 years of bad football, embarrassing football and we stayed loyal to this team. When they needed something to hang their hat on, it was us who was there. For the team now to turn the corner and look to skip town, it’s just devastating. For Mark Davis to look us in the eye and say he wanted to stay in Oakland, his heart is in Oakland, it’s a bunch of bull.”
Rivera said the approval of three franchise moves in less than 15 months, with the Rams and Chargers both going to Los Angeles, has robbed the NFL of part of its soul.
He said fans need to mobilize and called for a boycott of Bank of America, whose $650 million loan is helping fund the new stadium in Las Vegas.
Rivera said he planned to tailgate at games when the Raiders plan to play in Oakland the next two years but probably won’t go into the stadium and won’t give his support after the move in a reaction he believes will be common among the East Bay fans.
“Talking to many of them, unfortunately the sentiment is just like mine,” he said. “We’re done. We’re done. We’re not going to follow you guys to Vegas. This is it. You guys did us dirty on this one. You took the money and ran when there was a viable option to stay here. You have just left the most passionate fan base in the NFL.”
Not all fans are ready to give up on the team. Robert Morales said he tried to become a 49ers fan after the team moved to Los Angeles in 1982 but couldn’t do it and said he’d probably stick with the Raiders even after this move.
That doesn’t make it any less painful.
“I’m numb,” he said. “I could cry right now. I feel helpless. There’s nothing we can do about this. We’re just the loyal fans.”
The fans at Ricky’s gave more blame to Mark Davis for refusing to negotiate with Oakland than to current Mayor Libby Schaaf, who put together a plan with NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott and the Fortress Investment Group for a $1.3 billion stadium at the Coliseum site.
She had asked the NFL to delay a vote to allow negotiations for a deal to keep the Raiders but Davis was committed to Las Vegas after years of struggles to get anything done in Oakland.
“I also want to be very clear that Oakland had a viable project on the table,” Schaaf said. “We had a fully financed shovel-ready project that was a public-private partnership and we’re incredibly disappointed that that was not selected. I do think that the manly thing for him to do is at least admit that we had a viable plan and he made a choice.”
Davis said his plan is to stay in the Coliseum under his current lease for the next two seasons and he is uncertain what he will do in 2019. The stadium in Las Vegas is slated to open in 2020.
Oakland City Council President Larry Reid said he will consult with attorneys to see if they can force the Raiders out of the Coliseum early. He said they refused to sit down with the city, choosing instead to break fans’ hearts.
“You will never ever see me wearing anything that says the Raiders,” he said.