PHOENIX — The Black Hole will soon be no more.
After failing to secure a new stadium deal in Oakland, Raiders owner Mark Davis, son of the late Hall of Fame owner Al Davis, is moving the team to Las Vegas for what he envisions will become its permanent home. Known for its loyal and exuberant fans, many of whom attend games in costumes and sit in the section of stands known as the Black Hole, the Raiders will relocate after spending most of the past 57 seasons in the Bay Area.
NFL owners approved the relocation Monday by an overwhelming 31-1 vote. The owners are gathered for their annual spring meeting.
“My father used to say the greatness of the Raiders is in its future,” Mark Davis said a few minutes after the vote. “The opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world is one opportunity that will give us the ability to achieve that greatness.”
The Dolphins’ Stephen Ross is the lone owner who voted against the move. “My position today was that we as owners and as a League owe it to fans to do everything we can to stay in the communities that have supported us until all options have been exhausted,” Ross said in a statement.
The team will remain at its current stadium and will continue to be called the Oakland Raiders until the move to Las Vegas. NFL executive Eric Grubman said Monday a new stadium in Las Vegas will be ready for the 2020 season, meaning the Raiders could remain in Oakland for the next three years. It is possible, however, that the team could relocate to a temporary stadium in Las Vegas before then.
“I have mixed feelings, obviously, about Oakland,” Davis said. “I know they’re going to be disappointed and maybe some will be angry. I just hope they understand it’s not the players, it wasn’t the coaches that made this decision. It was me that made it. If they have anybody to talk to about it, it should be me. It’s going to be me to talk them and let them know why, how and what has happened. Hopefully, we can work things out and work together for the future.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league has attempted to work with the Raiders and elected officials in Oakland the last several years, but to no avail. Complicating the negotiations was that the Oakland A’s share the current stadium.
“This has been an issue for well over a decade,” Goodell said. “It’s a difficult process, as it should be. We worked tirelessly, but we just couldn’t get that done.”
The Raiders are the third team in the last 14 months to have relocation approved by the NFL. In January, 2016, the Rams were granted permission to relocate from St. Louis to Los Angeles, and the Chargers’ move from San Diego to Los Angeles was approved last January.
“You know that our goal is to have 32 stable franchises for each of those teams and the league,” Goodell said. “We’re all disappointed for Oakland and their fans.”
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, one of the rising young talents in the NFL who led the team to the playoffs last season, said in a statement he feels badly for the fans in Oakland, but looks forward to the challenge of the move.
“As I sit here and see a vote that takes the Raiders to Las Vegas, I am overwhelmed with emotion,” Carr wrote. “I don’t know how we should feel. I feel the pain of our fans in Oakland. I also see the joy on the faces of our new fans in Las Vegas. As players, we will show up and give everything we have. We will compete and we will do our best to bring a championship to the entire Raider Nation.
“While I am from California and would have loved playing in Oakland my whole career, I understand the business side of the NFL,” he said. “Oakland, our team loves you, and my family and I love you . . . Last Vegas, you can count on us bringing a piece of Oakland with us and you are getting a tough, loyal, and competitive fan base and team. When the time comes, I hope you are ready. For now, it’s about 2017 and our diehards in Oakland. God bless & Go Raiders!”
The Raiders were founded in 1960 as one of the original American Football League teams, and eventually won an AFL championship and then three Super Bowl titles. Al Davis, who frequently butted heads with NFL commissioners Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue, moved the team to Los Angeles after the 1982 season and remained there through 1994 before moving back to Oakland.
The team has featured some of the best and most colorful players in the AFL and NFL, including Hall of Fame quarterback Ken Stabler, Marcus Allen, Daryle Lamonica, Jim Plunkett, Jack Tatum, Mike Haynes, Ted Hendricks, Howie Long, Tim Brown, Art Shell and Gene Upshaw. Former Raiders coach John Madden is in the Hall of Fame, as well.
Raiders players and coaches have adored their team and Oakland fans, and even opponents have grown to respect playing in Oakland.
“I love the Black Hole,” Giants receiver Brandon Marshall said. “Before every game, I would run to the Black Hole and I would throw trash at ’em and water bottles and they would throw ’em back and that got me going, that was my juice for the game.”
Marshall and the Giants are set to play in Oakland in the 2017 season.