Wires and KTVU - National Football League owners voted by an overwhelming 31-1 margin at their meeting in Phoenix today to approve Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis' plan to move the team to Las Vegas.
The Raiders' new stadium in Las Vegas isn't expected to be ready until 2020 and their lease at the Oakland Coliseum calls for them to keep playing in Oakland for at least the next two years.
"I have mixed feelings. I love Oakland. I love the fans in Oakland," said Raiders owner Mark Davis.
Davis released a statement: “My father always said, ‘the greatness of the Raiders is in its future,’ and the opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world is a significant step toward achieving that greatness. I would like to thank Commissioner Goodell, the National Football League and my 31 partners. I would also like to thank Governor Brian Sandoval and the Nevada Legislature for their commitment. Finally, I would like to thank Sheldon Adelson for his vision and leadership, without which this project never would have become a reality. The Raiders were born in Oakland and Oakland will always be part of our DNA. We know that some fans will be disappointed and even angry, but we hope that they do not direct that frustration to the players, coaches and staff. We plan to play at the Coliseum in 2017 and 2018, and hope to stay there as the Oakland Raiders until the new stadium opens. We would love nothing more than to bring a championship back to the Bay Area.”
The NFL now has a third franchise move in just over a year. The Rams played last season in Los Angeles after switching from St. Louis. Earlier this year, the Chargers moved from San Diego to L.A. , although they will play in a soccer stadium until the $2.6 billion facility they will share with the Rams is ready in 2019. The Rams are playing in the Los Angeles Coliseum until then.
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 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," Schaaf said.
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.
Now, the Raiders are set to become the second pro franchise in Las Vegas, following the NHL's Golden Knights, who begin play in the fall in an already-built arena. The Raiders could spend the next two or even three seasons in the Bay Area before their stadium — whose estimated cost has recently dropped from $1.9 billion to $1.7 billion — is ready.
The Raiders' move became more certain earlier this month when Bank of America stepped up with a $650 million loan to Davis. That replaced the same amount the Raiders lost when the league balked at having casino owner Sheldon Adelson involved and he was dropped from the team's plans.
Leaving the Bay Area is not something new with the Raiders, who played in Los Angeles from 1982-94 before heading back to Oakland. Davis was passed over last year in an attempt to move to a stadium in the LA area that would have been jointly financed with the Chargers. Instead, the owners approved the Rams' relocation and gave the Chargers an option to join them, which they exercised this winter.