By Merlin Edwards III | @Trey_Me
The dreadful day has finally come... the Oakland Raiders will be no longer.
Owner Mark Davis has decided to pick up and leave the most loyal fans in the NFL for a city that has never even housed a professional sports franchise. There are multiple reasons why this has happened, but all of them mean nothing to the die-hard Raiders fans in the Bay Area. Sure, the Raiders have left before, but no team, until now, has ever left the same city twice. March 27th, 2017 will go down as a tragic day in Oakland sports history and nobody is to blame but the money hungry, corporate greed that is the NFL and its owners.
There are a lot of "never before's" attached to this move. There has never been a team that left its city twice. There has never been a professional team of any kind in Las Vegas. There has never been a team to leave a top 5 television market (SF Bay Area) for one as low as 40 (Las Vegas). There has certainly never been a city who has put up $750 million-plus in taxpayer money either, as Nevada has done. Oakland Raiders owner, Mark Davis is one of the least wealthy owners in the NFL and that is the reason why the Oakland Raiders will now call Las Vegas home. Oakland was not willing to put up anywhere near that amount of taxpayer money, and for good reason...why should they? NFL owners (for the most part) are billionaires. If you want a new state-of-the-art stadium, build the darn thing yourself! Just like Stan Kroenke did with the Rams in Los Angeles. Just like Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons are doing. Jed York and the 49ers...the list goes on.
However, since Mark Davis is not among those uber rich owners, the only thing he can do to get a stadium is take an enormous handout. He tried it in LA and got shot down by the other owners in favor of the Rams and Chargers. Now here is his next attempt, which turned out to be the straw that broke the camels back.
The fact that three teams have been approved to move in the span of 14 months is the zeitgeist of our political and financial society. All of these teams moving are because the other owners gave a vote of at least 24-8. The Raiders vote was 31-1. Only the Dolphins owner voted against it and his reasoning was sound with my own. Why would we take a team out of a top five market to one that is below 35? It may be a short term fix, but what about the long term? Things in Las Vegas seem to only be cool for a span of 2-5 years. So what happens after that? Mark Davis and the other owners have the belief that they'll still make money. And maybe they will. The 49ers have been top five in revenue while playing in a half-empty Levi's Stadium. The NFL making money is not about butts in the seats anymore. It's much more than that.
Now, to play devils advocate for a second, why wouldn't you vote for it? There is a relocation fee that must be paid which is evenly split between all of you. Since the fee this time was $300+ million, each owner is getting a check of over $10 million in your pocket. You also know (or can at least speculate) that the mystique of the Raider Nation fans will not be as strong in Vegas, so there is a good chance there is no more home field advantage that the Black Hole has held for years. Meaning your fans may even find another excuse to tell the wife they're going to Vegas for the weekend, and your VISITING team could be louder on those crucial 3rd downs. Not to mention you get to go to Vegas and maybe even hold a Super Bowl there.
The other owners had good reason to vote for this. The only owner that has had any semblance of loyalty to Oakland is Mark Davis. He threw that out of the window for a handout that Oakland would not give him, while assuming that the Raider Nation is so strong that the fan base will follow him.
Well, he's wrong. There are definitely fans in Las Vegas. The fans in LA are probably not angry either, as it's just a tad closer to them. But Oakland fans? We, as a whole, will never follow this team the same way. As signs in the stadium said all last season, "Las Vegas...if you build it, we WON'T come." Sure, there will be fans who follow the team, but in my humble opinion, there will be far less of the followers than the ones like myself. As soon as it was announced that season ticket holders would get their deposits back for the 2017 season, I called and did just that. So did my other family members that have had them for years. So did plenty of lifelong Raiders fans, because if you build it, we won't come. I refuse to be subject to the greed of an owner that clearly never cared about us. I refuse to give my hard earned money to a man who will leave my city without even trying to work with Oakland in the last 2 years. I respect you if you will still be a part of the Nation, but don't expect my fanaticism when there has been no gratitude shown to me. Loyalty is a two way street, and Raiders fans, for the second time, have had their hearts ripped from their chests.
The NFL is all about money, and it always will be. The fans may have mattered a long time ago, but the sad and inconvenient truth is, it will never be that way again. If they did, the Chargers would still be in San Diego and the Raiders would most definitely not leave Oakland yet again. My heart goes out to you Raider Nation. And wherever your fandom will or will not transfer to, more power to you. We are, and have always been in this together, and without us, all of us, the NFL and the Raiders will never be the same again.