NFL At 100: Raiders’ slow exit from Oakland painful for fans

SAN DIEGO (AP) — 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 NFLs 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 wont be back.

“Oh, its disastrous,” said Dobbins, an attorney who is co-founder and president of Save Oakland Sports. “In terms of twice in my lifetime when the teams left, its 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 theyve 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 isnt 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 is featuring the Raiders this year.

Of course, relocations are nothing new in the NFL, which celebrates its 100th season this fall.

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 didnt 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, St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland losing Americas 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 to stay put — the Rams won the race for the nations second-largest city. Stan Kroenke, one of the leagues 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.

The Chargers and Raiders were told to give it another try in their home markets. Both of those efforts failed, in large part because Californians are generally loathe to bestow public money on billionaire owners.

“Stadiums are the main story, much more so in the NFL than other leagues,” said Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College in Massachusetts. “The reason people leave in football isnt so much they want to go to a large demographic center, its because theres a better stadium somewhere else. Its purely a stadium-driven thing in the NFL.”

San Diego voters, weary of the Chargers 15-year effort to wrangle public money and/or land to build a new stadium, said no to Dean Spanos hastily written ballot measure in 2016 and lost its team of 56 years to Los Angeles, where the second-generation owner likely will benefit from Kroenkes vision and deep pockets. Oakland city officials made it clear that public money would go to related infrastructure but not a stadium itself, and Mark Davis, another second-generation owner, found a sweetheart deal for the Raiders in bustling Las Vegas.

When the Chargers divorced themselves from San Diego in January 2017, fans flocked to their headquarters and dumped jerseys, pennants, caps and other gear into a large pile that was set afire. Others were more practical, giving team-branded clothing to agencies that help the homeless.

But even as the pile of singed memorabilia was scooped into a dumpster behind the Chargers headquarters, the team was handing out free jerseys and caps in Los Angeles in an attempt to build a new fan base. The Chargers will play a third and final season this fall at a suburban L.A. soccer stadium before becoming a tenant in Kroenkes stadium.

The Rams, Raiders and Chargers have been involved in eight of the NFLs 13 major moves since 1946.

The Rams moved from Cleveland to Los Angeles in 1946. In 1980, they stayed in the metropolitan area but vacated the Coliseum for Anaheim while keeping the Los Angeles name. With the Coliseum freed up on Sundays, Al Davis moved the Raiders there in 1982, and the next year they won the citys only Super Bowl championship. After the 1994 season, the Rams bailed for St. Louis and the Raiders returned to Oakland, where they began play in 1960 as an original AFL team.

The Rams, unhappy with their stadium situation, left St. Louis for Hollywood before the 2016 season, making the Coliseum their temporary home. St. Louis also lost the Cardinals to Arizona in 1988, and the Cardinals originally were located in Chicago.

As for the Chargers, they began life in Los Angeles in 1960, also as an original AFL team, but their owner, hotelier Barron Hilton, was lured to San Diego in 1961. They rebranded as the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017.

Some cities that have lost teams have gotten new ones. Baltimore got what had been the Cleveland Browns, with Art Modell moving his team to Maryland in 1996 to become the Ravens while leaving the Browns name, colors and history behind. The new Browns began play in 1999.

The Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee in 1997 and eventually rebranded as the Read More – Source