Inside the Oakland Athletics fans ‘Reverse Boycott’
Jun 13, 2023, 10:03 PM | Updated: Jun 14, 2023, 8:33 am
(Photo by Brandon Vallance/Getty Images)
As the Oakland Athletics’ efforts to relocate to Nevada came to a head, a dormant fanbase made it clear that while they have not been purchasing tickets to games this season, they are still very much engaged in what will become of their beloved franchise.
On Tuesday, the Nevada State Legislature resumed a special session on whether to approve legislation that would fund a new A’s stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.
After a lengthy two-day session, the state Senate passed the $380 million bill to fund a new ballpark on the Las Vegas Strip.
Simultaneously 2,500 miles away, all 30 Major League Baseball owners convened in New York for meetings, where Oakland’s relocation efforts were expected to be a key point of conversations.
Also on Tuesday: 27,759 A’s fans packed Oakland Coliseum in a reverse boycott to send Athletics owner John Fisher and team president Dave Kaval, in short, that “we are still here.”
"Stay in Oakland!" 🗣️
A's fans are out in force for the reverse boycott
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 14, 2023
After a devastating tear-down that saw All-Star talents Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, and Sean Murphy shipped out of Oakland, A’s fans decided to hit Fisher where it hurts most–the multi-billionaire’s pockets–by boycotting home games as Fisher and Kaval flirted with the city of Las Vegas in hopes of building a new ballpark in Southern Nevada.
Fisher, who is worth 2.2 billion according to Forbes, has been a majority owner of the A’s since 2005, yet the deep-pocketed businessman has refrained from investing in the on-field–or field in general–product.
Oakland has spent year after year playing in the Coliseum, a stadium widely referred to as one of the worst in professional sports, while continuously carrying one of the league’s lowest payrolls.
Fisher and the A’s have traded away every young prospect that has blossomed into a star since 2005, indicating that they would instead save money than invest in home-grown players like Olson, Chapman, Murphy, former MVP winner Josh Donaldson, and slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
Following an offseason that included the departure of Murphy and failed talks to build a new stadium at Howard Terminal, Athletics fans decided to boycott home games, holding onto their money instead of putting it into the pockets of Fisher and Kaval.
As the boycott continued, attendance dipped to record lows.
Through 31 home games in 2023, the A’s had brought in a league-worst 8,675 fans per game, with multiple games seeing attendances of 3,000 or less–attendance numbers that hadn’t been seen in over 40 years.
For comparison, more fans were attending minor league baseball games around the country than filing into the Coliseum to watch Major League Baseball in Oakland.
Attendance for baseball games on April 4, 2023 👀
AAA game: 9548
AAA game: 9229
AAA game: 8305
AAA game: 8222
AAA game: 6950
AAA game: 6915
AAA game: 6639
AAA game: 6382
AAA game: 5953
AAA game: 5172
AAA game: 3835
Oakland A's: 3407
AAA game: 3200
AAA game: 2453
— Sporting News MLB (@sn_mlb) April 5, 2023
As owners met in New York, fans filed back into the Coliseum on Tuesday in a public display of protest, one that was the complete opposite of the early-season boycott of attending games.
27,759 fans–most wearing green shirts with “SELL” on the front in big white letters–showed the baseball world that the fanbase is very much alive, and they want this team to remain in Oakland–staying as a result of Fisher selling the franchise.
Those “SELL” shirts around the stadium were part of an organized giveaway by a group called the Oakland 68’s (in honor of the Athletics moving to Northern California in 1968.
After paying $27,000 out of pocket for 7,000 shirts, fans donated to the group to repay them for their inspiring gesture. Once fans started showing up to the Coliseum parking lots, the 68’s handed out the shirts–for free–to the first 7,000 fans that arrived for the game.
Throughout the duration of Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays–another MLB franchise that has been involved in relocation discussions in recent years–fans participated in several showcases of support in keeping the A’s in Oakland.
- During each opening at-bat from the top of each inning, fans chanted “Sell the team! Sell the team!”
- When the first A’s batter would lead off each bottom of an inning, fans yelled out, “Stay in Oakland (clap 5x).”
- As Rays outfielder Jose Siri dug into the box to lead off the top of the fifth inning, all 27,759 fans stood and remained silent for the entire at-bat as a way to honor the team’s 55-year residence in Oakland.
— Frankie Cartoscelli (@FCartoscelli3) June 14, 2023
Tuesday’s showcase of support made it clear that A’s fans are not to blame for the team’s lack of attendance in 2023. If Fisher is going to refuse to put effort and money into building a winning product or a new ballpark, fans aren’t going to pour their own time and money into Fisher’s business.
Instead of putting money toward’s Fisher’s net worth, A’s fans showed up in numbers as Oakland’s ticket office announced that they would donate tonight’s ticket revenue–over $800,000–to the Alameda County Community Field Bank and Oakland Publication Education Fund.
While the 42-person Nevada Assembly will likely vote on the bill in the coming days, thousands of Athletics fans made their voices heard on Tuesday night.
The message from those in attendance at the Coliseum was written across their chests:
Will Fisher show an ounce of compassion before dragging the final Oakland sports franchise out of the Bay? As the clock continues to tick on the Athletics’ 55-year stay in Northern California, over 27,000 people decked out in green and gold made it clear that they are still here, ready to cheer on their team for years to come.
They never left. Even when things have seemed bleak, even when things hit rock bottom. Fans haven’t packed the stadium over the past two seasons out of protest, out of fans’ disdain for Fisher and Kaval, not because they abandoned the team–unlike how Fisher is abandoning Oakland.
On a night that will be remembered for a long time, the red-hot A’s extended its MLB-best seven-game winning streak in thrilling fashion by claiming a 2-1 win over the 48-21 Rays.
All eyes will now shift to this week’s Nevada Assembly session, but Tuesday’s reverse boycott was a resounding stamp of disapproval from those that matter most in this relocation saga:
A memorable, powerful gesture from Oakland #Athletics fans.
Season-high in attendance. Electric atmosphere. The fans showed up, just like they said they would. pic.twitter.com/StYKKvNj3C
— Frankie Cartoscelli (@FCartoscelli3) June 14, 2023