By Alex Valentine
Oakland Raiders fans in Chicago for the NFL Draft had more to ponder than whether safety Karl Joseph was the right first-round pick.
They learned the team wants to relocate to Las Vegas.
“I don’t want them to move,” Juan Romero, a Raiders fan from Chicago, said Saturday on the final day of the draft. “They have so much history in California, especially in Oakland. Oakland is their culture, and it’s where they belong.”
On Thursday, the same day the draft started, Raiders owner Mark Davis proposed to the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee a $1.4 billion stadium, with the Raiders contributing $500 million (including a $200 million loan from the NFL) and Sands Corp. reportedly paying another $150 million.
“I think it’s going to be a great marriage,” Davis told the committee.
Al Davis, Mark’s father and franchise patriarch, famously bolted from the Bay Area for Los Angeles in 1982, only to return the team to Oakland 13 years later.
Mark Davis hopes to have the team in Las Vegas by 2020, but it will mean getting $750 million in public funding — and convincing at least 23 of the other 31 NFL owners to approve a move to Sin City, historically an issue with the league.
Eduardo Rodriguez, an employee at the NFL Draft Shop on Michigan Avenue, across the street from Chicago’s Draft Town, said the potential move hadn’t deterred fans from buying Oakland gear.
“They travel really well. … We’ve seen a lot of Raiders fans in here this week,” he said.
Even Ernesto Mota, a fan of the Bay Area’s other team, the San Francisco 49ers, said he hopes the Raiders stay in Oakland.
“They fit the profile of Oakland as a tough city, and I like having them as a rival,” Mota said. “I think if they move to Las Vegas, the rivalry will die in a few years.”
Romero said he will remain a fan of the Silver and Black — conditionally.
“As long as they stay the Raiders, keep their colors and logo the same, I don’t think the culture will leave too much,” he said. “That rebel culture is what made them so appealing. But once you change the colors and logo, you’ve destroyed the legend of Al Davis. And I don’t think Mark will do that.”
Mark Davis had hoped to move the team back in Los Angeles, but the NFL approved the Rams’ return and not the Raiders’. Tom Stallcup, an Oakland fan who grew up in Los Angeles and now lives in Iowa, found silver linings in moving to L.A. or Las Vegas.
“If they go back to Los Angeles again, it would be like a homecoming,” said Stallcup. “And if they go to Vegas, I love Las Vegas. Think of the opportunities to go out to Vegas and watch games. … I’m with them wherever they go.”