Protest by Oakland fans may be futile

December, 2, 2009
12/02/09
5:30
PM ET
Oakland Raiders fans are a passionate, creative bunch.

They stand by their team and want their Raiders to win as much as any set of fans in sports.

So, it’s not a shock that a group has bought a billboard near the team’s stadium in Oakland imploring owner Al Davis to relinquish his decision-making power.

You can’t blame Oakland fans for being fed up with their team. Since advancing to the Super Bowl after the 2002 season, the Raiders have lost more games than any team in the NFL. Since 2003, Oakland is a paltry 27-80. If Oakland, which plays at Pittsburgh on Sunday, doesn’t win three of its final five games, it will become the only team in history to lose at least 11 games in seven straight seasons. Oakland is currently the only team in history to lose at least 11 games in six straight seasons.

Still, don’t expect dramatic changes in the leadership of the team. Davis, 80, is essentially the general manager of the team and he will continue to make the calls as long as he owns the team. Davis has made it known he is open to making changes on the coaching staff, but he is the final decision-maker when it comes to personnel.

Can the fans' very public plea possibly sway Davis? Davis is as strong-willed as anyone alive, but he may be wise to at least consider what the fans are asking.

Fans have already protested in the form of not showing up at the Oakland Coliseum for games. The Raiders have suffered five straight local television blackouts. There is no reason why Oakland will suddenly sell out its final two home games. In Oakland’s last home game, a win over Cincinnati, just 34,000-plus attended. It was the smallest crowd to attend a game in Oakland in 42 years.

Thus, the upheaval began before any billboards were hoisted or petitions signed.

If Davis is ever going to listen to the fans, it has to be now. Last year, when he fired coach Lane Kiffin, Davis hinted that he could add to his personnel office. Yet, nothing has happened.

I know Davis has spoken to at least one man who formerly had a leadership role in an NFL front office, which shows that Davis has some interest in the thoughts of outside minds.

Still, the odds are strongly against Davis ever handing the reins over to someone else, despite how much fans protest.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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