On the morning of the day the NFL approved the Raiders'second move out of Oakland to richer, more glamorous destinations, Ray Bobbitt recalled the first move. Not so much the move, but the vote at the 1980 owners meeting that he and Raiders fans all over the East Bay thought was going to stop the move.
"We had the same anticipation of the vote,"Bobbitt told Sporting News, "and when they voted no, we celebrated outside our house. It was something like 22-0 — against, so they weren't going."He paused. "And then they moved anyway."
Bobbitt was 11 years oldin 1982, when Al Davis officially defied the owners and commissioner Pete Rozelle and took the Raiders to Los Angeles. Bobbitt is now 46, an Oakland native, a lifelong Raiders fan, and the leader of one of several fan groups planting their feet to fight the move by Davis’s son, Mark, to Las Vegas.
This generation of owners on Monday voted 31-1 for the move at the annualleague meetingin Phoenix.
Similar scenes have been enacted in St. Louis and San Diego within the past 14 months. With no disrespect intended toward those hurting fan bases — in fact, in solidarity with them — Bobbitt pointed out a crucial distinction.
"It's different with the Raiders, because they were born here,"said Bobbitt, a facility management consultant who grew up in East Oakland. "They’re the only franchise we have that was born here. This is on a whole different level for us.
"The culture of the brand is from us. We're a blue-collar city, and they play in a blue-collar neighborhood. It’s a city of rebels. We have the reputations as rebels — as Raiders. The Hell’s Angels were born here. The Black Panthers were born here. They're from Oakland, they’re from that neighborhood. It’s who we are. The Black Hole was created by a bunch of guys from the East Bay."
A similar distinction applies to Oakland's other two major-league franchises, whichare either in perpetual danger of moving (the A's) or are crossing the bay to their original Bay Area hometown soon (the Warriors).
That, he continued, is why the fire to keep the Raiders there has always burned brighter than through all the A’s often-parallel battles for a new stadium or new plan for the O.co Coliseum they’ve shared with the Raiders since 1966. Except, of course, for the 13 years the Raiders were in L.A.
And it inspires less rage than the Warriors’ 2019 move to a new arena in San Francisco, where they had played for nine years after leaving Philadelphia … before moving to the arena in the same parking lot as the Coliseum in 1971. And took on the name “Golden State” Warriors, not their home city's, it's important to note.
"I’ve never been a Warriors fan," Bobbitt said, "because they never used the name."
The Raiders, however, are worth fighting for, again. Bobbitt’s group, the Oakland Economic and Legal Action Committee, joined four Raiders fan organizations in sending an open letter to NFL owners early Monday morning.
Itessentially was a response to commissioner Roger Goodell’s letter to Oakland mayor Libby Schaafon Friday that, basically, broke the bad news in advance to the city’s efforts to keep the Raiders.
The fans'letter pleads with the NFL to give Oakland a fair shot, on legal, moral and emotional grounds. At the heart of it is a reminder that Oakland has been dragged through this once before and deserves better; letting the Raiders go to Las Vegas, it said, "will once again devastate legendarily loyal fans who have helped the Raiders thrive in Oakland for generations."
The plan to fight the Las Vegas move has as many moving parts as the plan to move there. There will be legal action, protests, boycotts, whatever they can come up with and wherever they can do them, Bobbitt said.
He plans to be active every step of the way.
"When they did it before, I was a boy,"he said, "and there was nothing I could do about it. But now I’m a man, with different ideas and priorities. And I’m not going to stand by and do nothing."