Raiders Fans in Oakland Accuse Davis of Bad Faith


Like twice-jilted lovers, Raider fans here accused owner Al Davis of bad faith--and worse--as word spread Tuesday of his abrupt decision to keep his franchise in Los Angeles after tantalizing Oakland for 20 months with the prospect of the team's return.

"I think all these negotiations were all a big charade to extract more money from Los Angeles," said Tom Harmon, a worker at the Oakland Coliseum, where the Raiders enjoyed 10 straight years of sellout crowds before departing at the end of the 1981 season.

In interviews conducted in this economically troubled city of 350,000, disappointment that the Raiders would not be coming back was tempered by pride that Oakland would not accede to demands that many here considered extortionate.

"Al Davis has been playing too many games with us," said Oakland housewife Johnnie Perkins. Added Ardis Robertson, a medical transcriber: "The Raiders are a good team, but Davis is too damned greedy."

Official Oakland was more muted in its response to this latest twist in the long-running municipal drama.

"The Raiders saga has ended for Oakland," said Mayor Lionel Wilson, who lost his recent bid for reelection in part, some believe, because voters perceived him to be too eager to lure the team back at any price.

Wilson defended his original $660-million deal of last March to bring back the Raiders, claiming it would have contributed millions of dollars to the city's coffers. Oakland scrapped the deal and reopened negotiations after the package was widely criticized as too expensive.

"Had it not been for the unfortunate fact that politics took the negotiations hostage, the original deal would still be in place and the Raiders would once again be playing in Oakland," Wilson said.

Don Perata, chairman of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and a key negotiator in the effort to recapture the Raiders, said he was "disappointed that we didn't conclude successfully." Like Wilson, he said he bore no ill feelings toward Davis.

"People thought it was a fool's mission and that we didn't have a prayer of getting them back, but we came literally within days of getting it done," Perata said.

This was an apparent allusion to the fact that Oakland's second offer to the team, valued at $127 million, had run into difficulties and the deadline for Raider acceptance had to be extended on Aug. 31 by 30 days. There were reports that Oakland authorities had discovered the real costs of their offer would be $40 million higher.

Melvin Tennant, president of the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the loss of the team would cost the city's businesses millions of dollars.

Among the losers will be the struggling Tribune, the Oakland-based newspaper that had been counting on the Raiders to boost circulation, said Leroy Aarons, vice president of news. "It's a blow," said Aarons.

"The city and county struggled mightily to forge an agreement that was palatable to the public," he added. "The Raiders would have added a sense of excitement, a sense of place."

Nowhere was the loss of the Raiders felt more deeply than at Ricky's Sports Lounge, over the border from Oakland in San Leandro. There, owner Ricky Riccardo Jr. on Tuesday dusted off a voodoo-like display of anti-Al Davis paraphernalia last shown in 1981. The shrine includes a wreath made of black crepe, an Al Davis dart board and rolls of toilet paper decorated with caricatures of the team's owner.

Riccardo also took down a 35-foot sign he commissioned last March welcoming the Raiders home. "I was going to burn it, but this isn't Los Angeles--we don't like pollution here."

Die-hard Raiders fans, like mourners going to a wake, headed for the bar as soon as they heard the news. "I bleed silver and black," said Robert Maciel, a potbellied trucker who finds the San Francisco 49ers across the bay too much of a "finesse" team for his taste.

But such fanatic fans of the brawling Raiders appeared to be in the minority on Tuesday. "Most people in Oakland got over the Raiders a long time ago," said Ken Mask, a short-order cook. "It's kind of like the Brooklyn Dodgers. There's nostalgia, sure, but not much else."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World