Chants of “Sell the team!” and “Stay in Oakland!” rang out from a sea of baseball fans donning kelly green T-shirts in the parking lot of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum hours before the scheduled start time of the Oakland Athletics vs. Tampa Bay Rays game Tuesday. Opponents of the Athletics’ planned move to Las Vegas prepared to pack the Coliseum in what was dubbed a “reverse boycott.”
The announced crowd of 27,759 was the A’s largest of the year, more than tripling their season average in attendance. The origin of the reverse boycott came from A’s fan Stu Clary who posted the idea to his Twitter in early April as a way to show the team and the league that “support is not the issue.”
A little more than a week after the reverse boycott was first suggested, the Athletics released a statement signaling that they had “signed a binding agreement to purchase land for a future ballpark in Las Vegas,” making it clear to fans in Oakland that their city, and the A’s vision for a ballpark at Howard Terminal, were no longer the priority.
Hal Gordon, a vendor at Oakland A’s games from 2016-22, more commonly known by his nickname “Hal the Hot Dog Guy,” was an early organizer of the reverse boycott along with Clary and the nonprofit A’s supporters organization, the Oakland 68’s. Gordon said that the announcement of the A’s deal in Las Vegas cast a shadow on their plans.
“I think everybody didn’t know what to think, didn’t know what to feel, didn’t even know if we were going to do it,” Gordon said.
Despite the setback, Gordon said the idea for the event morphed into a way for the fans to rejoice as a community and simultaneously do what they could to fight the long odds, regardless of the final outcome, against a billionaire owner in John Fisher who seems intent on moving the franchise to the Las Vegas strip.
One of the features of the night came in the form of 7,000 kelly green T-shirts with the word “SELL” printed in bold white lettering on the front. The shirts were provided via a collaboration between the Oakland 68’s and Oakland-based art and apparel brand Oaklandish, and paid for via crowd-sourced donations of $5 per shirt. Early arriving fans could stop by one of five pickup locations around the Coliseum parking lot to pick one up free of charge.
During the game, fans participated in coordinated cheers, shouting “Sell the team!” and “Stay in Oakland!” for the duration of the first at-bat of every inning. During the first at-bat of the fifth inning, and as designated on printed “cheer cards” handed out before the game by organizers of the reverse boycott, nearly every fan in the Coliseum stood up and remained silent before erupting in a “Sell the team” chant so loud that umpires had to temporarily pause the game as A’s pitcher Hogan Harris appeared to believe his PitchCom earpiece was malfunctioning.
“It was just so powerful,” Gordon said. “I mean, you couldn’t script it better.”
Oakland rallied late to win the game 2-1, beating the first-place Rays in back-to-back nights, as well as extending its winning streak to seven, which at the time was MLB’s longest active streak.
The A’s announced that they would be donating all ticket revenue from the game to the Alameda County Community Food Bank and the Oakland Public Education Fund shortly before first pitch, but have not responded to The Daily Californian’s request for comment on the reverse boycott as of press time.
Earlier in the day, the Nevada Senate passed a bill to grant $380 million in public funds to the A’s to fund a ballpark on the Las Vegas strip. The bill then passed through the Nevada Assembly and was signed into law by Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo Thursday afternoon.
While the A’s ownership remains in talks with Las Vegas to consolidate the move, it is clear that the fans want one thing — for the team to stay in Oakland. The full scope of the impact of the reverse boycott, aside from gaining national media attention, is yet to be seen.