The amphitheater outside of City Hall was the site of a spirited pep rally for Oakland’s sports teams Monday morning as Mayor Jean Quan led the crowd of about 100 fans in a “Let’s Go Oakland!” chant, urging them to get louder and draw people out of their downtown offices.
The rally was the kickoff of a weeklong campaign—led by Quan’s office—called “Oakland Loves Its Sports Teams,” set to run from September 10-14. The week will include the Monday Night Football opener for the Oakland Raiders on September 10, and the Friday Night Oakland Athletics game on September 14. “Let’s sell out the Coliseum twice. Let’s sell out Monday Night Football,” Quan said. “Let’s tailgate. I’ll be out there.”
The crowd was full of Raiders jerseys, Oakland A’s paraphernalia and signs for both teams distributed by Quan’s office. Speakers addressed the half-full amphitheatre flanked by several dozen supporters, including members of the Raiders’ “Black Hole”—a devout group of fans that includes Gorilla Rilla, a fan who wears a black gorilla suit, goggles, hat and over-sized silver and black jersey, and Dr. Death, who wears a long black wig, shoulder pads and a silver helmet spiked with (fake) knives. “Mayor Quan called me personally and asked me to come out today to show my support,” said Dr. Death. “It’s more than being a fan, it’s fandemonium. It’s our livelihood. We live for this.”
Everyone was in high spirits, showing their support for their local teams and the cities’ efforts to keep them in Oakland. All three professional Oakland franchises have openly flirted with moves out of the city. The Athletics ownership group, led by Lew Wolff, has had talks with officials in Fremont, San Jose and Sacramento about possible relocations. New Raiders owner Mark Davis, the son of Al Davis, told reporters in January of this year that a move back to Los Angeles was a possibility, referring to his team’s expiring lease at O.co Coliseum in 2013. Warriors management, which bought the team in 2010, is in the last stages of completing a deal to move to San Francisco, where they’d build a new arena to open by the 2017-18 season.
According to a press release put out by the mayor’s office, the rally was meant to increase support for Oakland’s “irreplaceable civic treasures that add significantly to the economy, identity, pride and culture of Oakland.” Quan and other speakers, including City Administrator Deanna Santana and Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, boasted Monday about Oakland being the only Californian city to have pro baseball, football and basketball teams.
After Quan and several other guests spoke, Kaplan riled up the fans with a lively speech. “Together, we and our sports teams can grow, thrive and [have] success in Oakland,” she said.
Kaplan also took the opportunity to mention her support of the Coliseum City project—a $2 million study included in Quan’s latest budget proposal to explore the potential for a new sports complex to replace the aging Coliseum and ORACLE Arena. Proposed in March, the project would transform the arena into a state-of-the-art commercial and sports district that would house Oakland’s three professional teams, as well as office, shopping and convention space, capitalizing on its access to public transit via BART.
But the planned Warriors departure left some worried that the project would fall through, resulting in either the A’s or Raiders leaving. “There’d be a big hole in the city [if a team left],” said Oakland resident Brandon Jones. “It’d be like a grave.” Jones, decked out in full Oakland regalia, added, “They’re more than a team, they’re a lifestyle. My family grew up with these teams. “
Fan James Fry recalled when the Oakland Raiders moved to Los Angeles in 1982. “It was horrible,” Fry said. “I didn’t follow them when they left. I felt they didn’t support us, why would I support them?”
September’s campaign, which will include a noon concert on Wednesday, as well as a fundraiser on Thursday, is meant to show the support that the A’s and Raiders currently have within the city. “These teams are huge for the psychology of the city,” said Josh Blissett, of Oakland. “Everything the city has been through, the riots and everything else—having these teams is very important.”
“The teams are important to the image of the city,” agreed Susan Rovetta, dressed in an old Fred Biletnikoff #25 Raiders jersey. “Oakland is a genuine blue-collar town, and you can’t be a genuine blue-collar town without sports teams.” Rovetta, who travels extensively in Central America, said that in her travels she has met people who know about Oakland because of its sports teams.
Although she remained vague, Quan alluded several times to ongoing negotiations with A’s and Raiders management. “We will get it done, we’ll keep these teams in Oakland,” she said.
In the meantime, Dr. Death and other Oakland devotees say they are supporting the mayor. “We’re just left to chant now, because we can’t be involved in the negotiations and dealings,” Dr. Death said. “But I’m behind the mayor 110 percent.”
For more information about Oakland Loves Its Sports Teams, go here.