Rain and tears for Raiders' Oakland farewell, but no backing down


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By all indications, the fans in Oakland are not planning to send the Raiders away with pickets signs outside of the Coliseum and a sea of empty seats inside.

"We’ll show up. We're not gonna stay home," said Raymond Bobbitt, who leads We Stand With Oakland, one of several fan groups that has fought for years to keep the Raiders from moving and the NFL for allowing it.

Monday night's game against the arch-rival Broncos might be the last game the city's first major sports franchise ever plays there, but the fans are unlikely to boycott in protest, or cause a scene like, Bobbitt said, "tearing the seats out of the old stadium."

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"We'll probably tailgate, and do what we usually do — and it’s probably gonna rain that night," he continued. (Rain is, in fact, in the forecast for the entire day and evening in Oakland.) "It's probably exactly what should happen for this.

"The best way I can describe Monday night’s game is, it's a funeral. A straight-up funeral. It's not a wedding, it's not a birthday, it's a funeral. There’s nothing nice about about it, there’s nothing fun about it. It’s sad."

Bobbitt and others expect it to be a relatively packed funeral. That the 3-11 team, obviously cleaning house in Year 1 of the Jon Gruden regime, still draws an announced 58,500 per game is a testament to the fans’ loyalty even while the tug-of-war over the team made the final Oakland years increasingly miserable.

"If the stadium was 10 percent full and fans were showing up with bags on their heads, they could claim no support and use that as their excuse, but they can’t," Bobbitt said. “It’s so absurd to us."

He used the term "absurd" to describe the Raiders’ ugly, protracted departure at least a dozen times in a 25-minute conversation with Sporting News.

"And we don’t ever use that word in Oakland," Bobbitt said with a laugh. "We use words like (B.S.). I’m trying to be as non-Oakland as possible."

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Bobbitt and the rest of a fan base that has redefined long-suffering is fully aware of the reports that the relationship between owner Mark Davis and city that is now suing him has all but destroyed any chance of the Raiders plying in Oakland in 2019, before their official move to Las Vegas. The realization only sank in within the last two weeks.

Yet the fans have persistently resisted the urge to boycott all season, starting with the home opener in September, again on a Monday night, a week after the Raiders traded Khalil Mack.

The city and the numerous fan groups are now demanding that, if they can’t stop the Raiders from leaving or force them to return to Oakland for one more season, they want the city to retain the logo, colors and history — as Cleveland did after the Browns moved in 1995, and as Baltimore could not when the Colts left in 1984.

"It’s not about Mark Davis moving the team," Bobbitt said. "We don't care about who owns the team. It’s our team. If he wants to take his team to Las Vegas, go ahead. But the Raiders are ours. 'Raiders' doesn’t even mean anything in the desert."

The fans will express that at the tailgates, he said, with the customary signs demanding that the team stay in its original homet

own. They'll then go inside and cheer for the Raiders as they did from 1960 to 1981, when they moved to Los Angeles, and as they did from their 1995 until now. (And as many continued to cheer for them while they were down in southern California.)

But, Bobbitt added, "We're not gonna be celebrating, we'll just be sad and down. So thank God for rain."