Passionate Raiders fans jam NFL town hall meeting

Hundreds of boisterous Raiders fans, many dressed in the football team's silver and black colors, asked the team's owner and National Football League officials Thursday night not to move the team away from Oakland.

At a town hall meeting the NFL held at the Paramount Theater in downtown Oakland, a fan and rapper named "Dynamo" said, "Being a Raider fan is a way of life. We live this, we breathe this."

Referring to the team's long struggle to have a new stadium built in Oakland or possibly somewhere else, Dynamo asked, "Why is it so difficult for a team with such a heritage to get things done?"

Dynamo said, "You'd think Oakland could get it done for a team that has won three Super Bowls."

NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman, who heads the league's relocation program, told the crowd of 440 people, "It's not harder or more difficult in Oakland than it is in other cities."

Grubman said, "There are really difficult things in every city - not just the money but also permitting the land and environmental issues."

Grubman also said Raiders fans shouldn't think that there's no chance that the football team will stay in Oakland, even though Raiders owner Mark Davis is actively exploring the possibility of building a new stadium in Carson, a suburb of Los Angeles, and having the team play there.

"There are other clubs where people lost hope and they are still there" (the teams' original cities), Grubman said.

The hearing in Oakland was the third that the NFL has held on consecutive nights in cities whose football teams might be moved elsewhere soon, following hearings in St. Louis on Tuesday and in San Diego on Wednesday.

St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is looking at a new stadium in Inglewood in Los Angeles County and the San Diego Chargers are in talks with the Raiders about sharing a new stadium in Carson.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf put down Carson in her remarks, saying, "We know that the energy and the value is flowing to vibrant cities like Oakland, not tired suburbs like Carson."

Schaaf said, "We need to find the best way to keep the Raiders in Oakland, where they belong."

NFL officials weren't sure that Davis would attend the hearing, but he was the first speaker and when he took the podium Raiders fans gave him a lengthy standing ovation and launched into Raiders chants.

Davis thanked the fans for being "the most passionate, loyal fan base in the nation" but initially said he wouldn't take questions, although he promised to listen to everyone at the three-hour hearing.

However, Davis felt compelled to take the microphone again later in the meeting after fan Gary Dowell, dressed in a black hat and a Raiders uniform, accused him of not having the fans' backs.

Davis said, "We have been trying for at least six years to get something done in Oakland, every day."

Davis said, "We need help from the community to get something our fans and the NFL can be proud of. And it can be done in Oakland if everyone pulls together to get it done."

Dowell said of the three teams that are looking at the possibility of moving, only the Raiders are selling out their stadium.

Dowell said the Raiders shouldn't be like the San Francisco 49ers, who he said "lost their heart" when they recently moved from Candlestick Park in San Francisco to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, where there often are empty seats at the team's games.

The Raiders were founded in Oakland in 1960 but moved to Los Angeles in 1982. The team moved back to Oakland in 1995.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the 440 people who came to the hearing represented the smallest crowd at the three hearings, although only by a small margin.

He said 450 people came to the hearing in San Diego and 800 came to the hearing in St. Louis.

McCarthy said teams that want to apply to relocate to a different city can do so between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15 next year.

He said three-fourths of the owners of the NFL's 32 teams must approve any team moves but he said if a team's move is approved it could play in a new city as early as next fall.