It was Raiders broadcaster Billy King who exclaimed, “Nothing is real any more!” in the aftermath of the famous Holy Roller play years ago.
After the bizarre if not downright surrealistic scene that took place outside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Tuesday afternoon, Raiders fans have reason to shake their heads in bewilderment again.
While several dozen protesters implored their team to stay in Oakland, owner Mark Davis reiterated that the East Bay was his first priority. Yet no sooner were the words out of his mouth, the land deal for a proposed $1.7-billion stadium to be shared by the Raiders and the San Diego Chargers in Southern California was finalized after months of private negotiations.
Will the Raiders stay or will they go? Not even Davis pretended to know for sure.
“What's up, guys?” Davis pacified the crowd. “Hey, listen, you guys are the best. I'm trying all I can do to keep this team in Oakland, OK? I don't know what to do, I really don't know. We're trying. I'm not trying to divide any fan base. Every time I talk to anybody, I'm trying to stay in Oakland. That's my No. 1 choice, but we can't do this forever. I really appreciate you all, I really do.”
And with that, skeptical fans who waved “Stay in Oakland!” signs and screamed “Oakland Raiders!” turned friendly with cries of “Thank you, Mark!” They were joined by a few Chargers fans, who had “Save Our Bolts” posters.
Davis maintained that, if he had his way, a stadium would be built near O.co Coliseum, which the Raiders and the Athletics have shared for the last 20 years. He discussed the future with Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney over a three-hour dinner last week.
Davis expected to know more on June 21, when the City of Oakland and Alameda County are scheduled to unveil a $900-million stadium plan for the East Bay. He would contribute $500 million to the cost.
“Selfishly we'd like to have that land all to ourselves, but we'd like the A's to stay, we'd like the Raiders to stay,” said Davis, who was in town for the annual NFL spring meetings. “We'd like to build a baseball and a football stadium, maintain the parking that we have, so we have a game-day experience with tailgating and everything else.
“But I don't want to build a football stadium in the corner of a parking lot, leave the current Coliseum standing, build a beautiful new stadium and then be in a construction zone for the next three or four years while they tear down the Coliseum where it stands and build a new baseball stadium.”
As one of the smallest spenders among the 32 league owners, Davis needs help to build a stadium anywhere. That's why the organization has joined forces with Carson, which is almost certain to bring at least one NFL team back to the Los Angeles area after a 20-year hiatus. On Tuesday, the proposed 11-acre site was transferred to a company that the Chargers and the Raiders own jointly.
Coupled with the hiring of former San Francisco 49ers president Carmen Policy, who will help oversee the stadium project, the latest development makes the Carson option more viable than ever before.
“I'm going to remain controlling owner of the Raiders,” Davis said. “The Raiders, they were my father's life. It means a lot to me to perpetuate his legacy and bring this organization back to greatness.”
As for where that will be exactly, Raiders fans may as well roll a football down the California coast and see where it stops.
The Associated Press contributed to this report