Schaaf delivers emotional call for Raiders to stay in Oakland

Oakland Raiders fan displays his displeasure
with the team’s intention of moving to Vegas.

OAKLAND
With the clock admittedly winding down, Mayor Libby Schaaf launched a passionate, sometimes defiant effort Saturday to keep the Raiders in Oakland. NFL Owners could possibly vote on allowing the team to relocate to Las Vegas as early as Monday.

Oakland’s seemingly last-ditch effort includes a pledge from the Ronnie Lott-backed investment group offering a similar loan reportedly backed by Bank of America to build a retractable-dome stadium in Las Vegas. NFL executives reportedly are balking at the existence of the Oakland Athletics at the Coliseum, along with a persistent gripe against the city’s inclusion of a third-party developer.

Schaaf admitted the presence of the Oakland Athletics looms large over any deal in the minds of NFL executives. But she stood firm Saturday in vowing not to push away the A’s when ample room exists at the 55-acre Coliseum complex for two stadiums. She also dispelled rumors peddled by some national football reporters that the NFL had shown interest to the city for purchasing the land at the Coliseum, presumably to act as developer for the stadium project.

Emotions, though, were on full display at a quickly organized press conference Saturday at the
Coliseum, with both Schaaf and Raiders superfans describing the team’s historical value to Oakland and extolling the virtues of the local plan while knocking Las Vegas’ plan.

Schaaf, recounting as a teenager the memory of crying when learning the Raiders were skipping town for Los Angeles in 1981, she said. “We are not going to let that happen again.”

Much of Schaaf’s comments were delivered in an–uncommon for her–rapid, staccato rhythm. At one point, remarking about the suggestion the city and county has not done enough to offer the NFL and the Raiders a suitable offer, Schaaf said, “We are calling bullshit on that.”

A load, continuous roar followed from the roughly 200 Silver-and-Black-bedecked fans at the Coliseum’s Eastside Club. “Oakland is united in this effort,” said Schaaf. “It’s not too little, too late for this deal.”

Schaaf and other elected officials attempted to highlight Oakland’s revised plan for a new 55,000-seat stadium at the current Coliseum footprint, while knocking away at the heavy debt load the team might face with Las Vegas’ offer, estimated as high as $1 billion.

Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid said the current offer from the Ronnie Lott-backed Fortress Investment Group is offering the Raiders $800 million private money as opposed to the $750 million in taxpayers’ money approved for Las Vegas. “Our deal is equal or better than what they have in Vegas,” said Reid.

Oakland also continues to bet on the region’s blazing business climate and much-larger media presence over that in Las Vegas, in addition, to playing up the Raiders “mystique.” Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council, a major player in the local business community, said the East Bay’s economy is too hot to ignore. “It’s in the NFL’s best interests to keep the team here,” said Wunderman.

If Oakland’s hopes of keeping its professional football team are dashed next week or at another scheduled NFL owners’ meeting in May, its options going forward are very limited.

When a reporter asked Schaaf if the city might sue the league if the Raiders’ relocation is approved, Schaaf said, “Let me be clear right now, we are not contemplating any other option other than winning. If the unthinkable should happen, check-in with me after that. I do not have room in my heart, in my mind, for any other result right now.”

Founded in 1960 and excluding the 13-year odyssey in Los Angeles, the Raiders have historically been a part of Oakland’s identity as a rough-hewn, blue-collar town populated by underdogs. Whether this is a valid point in a league that grosses more than $9 billion annually, is questionable.

But a number of fans Saturday returned to the inescapable link between the team and city, with one fan asking Raiders owner Mark Davis to simply “love us back.”

“What more can we say,” Schaaf added, “Love us back.”

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