I’ve never lost a team. I don’t and can’t really understand what Raiders fans are going through with the planned departure of the team from Oakland; that’s what I came here to figure out.
Raymond Perez Jr., is not your average Raiders fan. The 29-year-old works at a public relations firm during the week but spent years of Sundays attending Raiders games in full black-and-silver costume. Dr. Death earned recognition around the Bay Area, and even an SI cover. This past offseason, Dr. Death took his face paint and his knife-spiked helmet to city council meetings, where he became the face of Raider fans’ fight against the team’s relocation.
That fight ultimately failed. Las Vegas offered $750 million for a new stadium and Mark Davis was all too happy to accept (and then double-cross the guy principally responsible for making that deal happen). In March, NFL owners voted 31-1 to approve the relocation.
Perez had traveled to Phoenix for the owners’ meetings in an effort to sway the vote with a last ditch display of fandom. When the decision was announced, he retreated to his hotel room and, without any face paint, posted a 12-minute long video announcing his intention to retire the costume and give up his fandom forever if the team leaves Oakland.
Perez and some of his more diehard friends are still hanging on to that “if,” hoping that the Vegas somehow reneges on the deal while exploring their own legal options to force the team to stay. But in the meantime, Perez is not watching any football. We visited him at his home in Sacramento to see how that’s going.
On the night before I met Dr. Death, I went to a BBQ with family friends who live in the Bay Area. I told them about the plan for the trip and they pointed out a guy in a Raiders hat. “You should talk to Rob,” they said.
Rob is a sports guy—drafted by the Brewers over 20 years ago, an injury cut his pitching career short before it went much beyond that. “I hear you’re a Raiders fan,” I told him. He pointed at the massive script tattoo that filled his forearm: Raider Rob. I think there were other tattoos, logos probably, but it was the personalized branding that really stuck out. He’d heard of Dr. Death—of course, we’re talking about a guy with multiple Raiders tattoos—but didn’t think much of Death’s plans to boycott the NFL.
“That’s got nothing to do with me,” Rob said brusquely. His Raider fandom is as permanent as his ink. Still, I needled. He said didn’t think the Raiders will really move, but if they do, it’ll be the city of Oakland that’s to blame. “The fans would have paid for it,” he insists of a new stadium. There is at least one person in the Bay Area who supports public subsidies for billionaire owners.
On these two topics—whether loyalty has geographical limits, and whether taxpayers should fund stadiums—Dr. Death and Raider Rob are diametrically opposed. I’m not sure if this is a testament to how football fandom transcends, binding together people who would otherwise have nothing in common, or if it’s proof that even the simple pleasures of sports can become divisive when fans are confronted with the corporate reality of the game. Either way it’s a good reminder that even a sea of silver and black isn’t homogenous.
Creative producers: Myra Iqbal, Alfonso Solis