On Tuesday night, the NFL held a town hall meeting in St. Louis in order to give fans there an opportunity to be heard on the Los Angeles stadium issue. On Thursday night the NFL will be doing the same thing, only at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland with Raiders fans. So let’s take a look at what we can expect.
What’s the point of the town hall?
This is something completely new for the NFL and many had no idea what to expect. Many others, such as myself, simply don’t understand what the point of the town hall meetings is. From my cynical point of view, I find it hard to believe that this is anything more than a head fake toward caring about fans as the NFL breaks their ankles on the way to the end zone that is Los Angeles.
No matter how it shakes out, at least one city is going to lose an NFL franchise in the next few years and the league wants to pretend like it cares about the fans of that city.
What happened in St. Louis?
The St. Louis meeting was first and gives Oakland fans an idea of what to expect tomorrow night.
For the most part, it appears to have gone just about as you would expect. Lots of fans spoke, each being given three minutes at the microphone. There was story after story of the impact the Rams have had on individual fans as well as a fair share of anger being directed at owner Stan Kroenke.
My favorite quote to emerge from the meeting came from an elderly woman who, with her husband, moved to St. Louis from Los Angeles. Not specifically for the Rams, but their presence was what made her husband agree to the move. They cannot afford to move back to Los Angeles and she gave one final plea to make them stay:
Please do not take my Rams away from me again. They belong to the fans like me. The owners are just the caretakers.
A well spoken sentiment to which I believe many fans in the NFL can relate, but sadly, one which holds zero truth. The NFL is a moneymaking entity, as are all of its teams. The only true sentimentality about the NFL is held in the hearts of fans and some players.
The only real surprise, which shouldn’t really be a surprise, was that some protesters made their presence known, unfurling a sign that said “Fund Schools, Not Football” while a person at the microphone asked what the NFL would do to help racial inequality in St. Louis.
As anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock knows, Oakland is a hotbed for political activity and there is a high likelihood that some form of protest occurs at this meeting.
For those who are unaware, Oakland is part of a drastically changing Bay Area that has seen the cost of living skyrocket over the last five to ten years. The result is that many lifelong natives of Oakland and the rest of the Bay Area have been driven out of town. Because of this, the stadium project is a touchy political issue.
One of the reasons many Oaklanders, myself included, had a serious issue with the Coliseum City plan was because it did little to nothing to address the low income housing crisis. The Oakland Coliseum is located in deep East Oakland, which is filled with low income households struggling to get by.
A development like Coliseum City could be great for them, but only if it’s done right. The way it had been envisioned under Floyd Kephart never pointed to it being done right.
So, what can you expect from the Oakland Town Hall?
We all know the infamous Dr. Death — who has taken it upon himself to informally lead the charge to keep the Raiders in Oakland — will be there along with a lot of his “Forever Oakland” group.
We can all expect to hear just as many heartfelt stories as were heard in St. Louis (if not more) from fans young and old and likely just as much anger at ownership.
We can also likely expect at least one speaker to bring up social justice issues facing the City of Oakland, much like the protesters in St. Louis did.
The one major question that remains
In St. Louis, Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Dermoff was in attendance and made a statement to the crowd. There has not been any official statement as to who, if anyone from the Raiders would be in attendance. The most logical person to attend would be Marc Badain, the front man for the Raiders on the issue.
So far, the Raiders have been mostly absent from the Oakland stadium efforts. That was due primarily to their clear displeasure with Floyd Kephart and his Coliseum City plan. Now that Kephart is out of the equation, the Raiders have begun having direct meetings with the City of Oakland.
Oakland is still behind the eight ball in terms of the stadium race — at least now they are in the game rather than just watching from the sidelines like before.