MLB

Oakland Athletics Fans Boycott Home Opener Outside Stadium In Protest Of Las Vegas Move

Mar 29, 2024, 10:54 AM

Oakland Athletics home opener protest boycott Las Vegas move...

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 28: A general view of the pitch thrown by Alex Wood #57 of the Oakland Athletics during their game against the Cleveland Guardians at Oakland Coliseum on March 28, 2024 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Many fans at the Oakland Coliseum were still hanging out in the parking lot when Alex Wood delivered the first pitch of the season for the Athletics against the Cleveland Guardians.

And they had no intention of going into the stadium.

In protest of the A’s planned move to Las Vegas in 2028, fan groups staged a boycott of the home opener Thursday, purchasing tickets to the game to organize a block party outside the stadium. Paid attendance for the game was 13,522, but many never made it inside.

A half-hour before the game’s first pitch, hundreds of fans gathered in the far corner of the parking lot. They displayed “Sell” T-shirts and flags, threw beanbags at caricatures of team executives —including owner John Fisher and president Dave Kaval — and danced to live music while munching on dinner from food trucks.

“Everyone’s in such a good mood because we’re all here for the same thing,” said Edward Silva, a student at San Jose State and a lifelong A’s fan. “Everyone knows the score. So everyone’s on the same page, and just creating a wonderful atmosphere.”

The A’s opened gates to parking lots just two hours before the game to align with what they said was the expected attendance, but fan groups that organized the boycott, including the Oakland 68’s and The Last Dive Bar, said it was an attempt to limit the protest.

Dennis Biles, an organizer with the Oakland 68’s, said at a rally in the parking lot that Thursday was the first A’s home game he missed in five years. Biles, a season ticket holder since 2007, chose to attend college locally so he could still go to A’s games. He noted that other fans probably made similar sacrifices to support the club, small or large.

“For a long time, I really believed that the A’s were actually dedicated to the community,” Biles said. “And I really bought into that whole spiel.”

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The A’s plan to relocate to Las Vegas in 2028, but where they will play after this season remains uncertain with their lease at the Coliseum expiring. Sacramento and Salt Lake City have been floated as options, as well as sharing Oracle Park with the San Francisco Giants.

The Oakland 68’s and the Oakland United Coalition called at the rally for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to back out of their agreement to sell their 50% stake of the Coliseum to the A’s. At another booth was organizers at Schools Over Stadiums, a group attempting to block public funding for the Las Vegas stadium in favor of money for education.

Thursday was the second large action taken by A’s fans during home games after plans to move to Las Vegas were announced. Last June, fans packed the Coliseum for a reverse boycott urging Fisher to sell the team.

“I felt like that was for us to know that it was important,” said Hal Gordon, an economist and former hot dog vendor at the Coliseum who became a fan favorite before he left in 2022. “This time, we’re fighting. We’re fighting back. We’re raising money to fight back. We’re urging people not to go in so they have less money to build their stadium.”

He added: “There’s no playbook when someone says, ‘We’re stealing your team from you.'”

Managers for both teams empathized with the fans.

“I wouldn’t expect anything less from Oakland A’s fans,” manager Mark Kotsay said. “When they come out, they come out with support, with love, and they do it full force.”

Kotsay added that the fans that do show up to the game itself would “have a way to just be loud and create energy.”

“Just to put a uniform on and to have this opportunity to be a big leaguer, to manage a big league club — I’m honored, regardless if there’s one fan or 60,000 fans,” Kotsay said.

Oakland remains a special place for Guardians manager Stephen Vogt, who made his debut against the club for which he played six years.

“My heart goes out to the fans and the people of Oakland, obviously the organization as well,” Vogt said. “They’re in a tough place right now and hopefully they’ll get some answers and some clarity soon.”

Want more coverage of the Oakland A’s planned move to Las Vegas? Take us with you, wherever you go.

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Oakland Athletics Fans Boycott Home Opener Outside Stadium In Protest Of Las Vegas Move