Bay Area fans of the Oakland Raiders suffered through a 13-year playoff drought before their team showed signs of life in 2016. Then, just as a Derek Carr-shaped light emerged at the end of the tunnel, franchise owner Mark Davis got the OK to move the club to Las Vegas.
Raiders fans have the right to feel angry with the result. The good news is they’ll have at least two years to make their frustrations heard in person before their team can skip town. The Raiders will have to play their 2017 and 2018 seasons in Oakland while they wait for their $1.9 billion football palace to be constructed in the Nevada desert.
The team’s new, as-yet unnamed stadium won’t be ready for occupancy until 2020, leaving the Raiders stuck in the city they’re set to flee for at least two more seasons. There’s no definite location for the team’s home games in 2019, though NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told members of the press a return to the O.co Coliseum is a possibility. UNLV’s Sam Boyd Stadium is also in play, though it would need significant improvements to meet the league’s standards — and would be phased out in 2020 when the Rebels move to the Raiders’ new digs.
Davis attempted to preemptively address fans’ concerns in the team’s official release regarding the 31-1 vote in favor of moving the team from California.
“The Raiders were born in Oakland and Oakland will always be part of our DNA,” he explained to the team’s supporters. “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.”
Davis told the media that fans who had already put down season ticket deposits for 2017 and beyond would be entitled to refunds after Monday’s news. He also tried to express his loyalty to the city he’d lobbied hard to abandon minutes earlier.
"I wouldn't use the term lame duck,” said Davis. “We're still the Oakland Raiders."
Quarterback Derek Carr also made a point to console local fans, expressing his love for the city on Twitter shortly after the news broke.
The good news for Oakland fans is their team is primed for its most successful stretch since 2000-2002 thanks to a core of dynamic young prospects developing into All-Pro players. The bad news is that they’ve only got two more guaranteed seasons to watch them live. The Raiders will give the Bay Area one last stretch of NFL football, and the product will be considerably better than it’s been the past decade.
Then, right as the team is set to peak, Davis will rip the rug out from under his fan base to secure his spot in Las Vegas.