ALAMEDA — If there were a betting pool on who might be the first Raiders player to dip their toe in hot water over some comments related to the team’s relocation to Las Vegas, the polished Derek Carr wouldn’t have garnered the best odds (pardon the obvious gambling reference).
But there was Carr, on the first day of the Raiders offseason program, meeting with the media and causing some raised eyebrows with a comment about how “true Raiders fans” have reacted to the planned relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas.
As always in these cases, Carr’s comment should be provided in full context.
This was his fourth question he received during a nearly 20-minute news conference in a room filled now by a fair share of Vegas media in addition to local reporters and one national media member. He had just been asked if he had any thoughts on the Vegas move beyond his initial posting on Twitter the day of the vote. The follow-up to that response centered on what his interaction has been like with fans he’s come across in the Bay Area, some of whom are obviously upset the Raiders are leaving town for the second time.
Here’s his full answer, according to the official transcript sent out by the Raiders (and because I was there and transcribed the recording myself too, I can attest that these are the exact words):
“Honestly, it was surprising to me. I don’t know if it really should have surprised me because that’s just how Raider fans are. It’s just, ‘Hey, we’re going with you. We’re Raiders.’ Like I said in the message, through the hard times and the good times, we’re still Raiders. There’s been a lot of hard times before. Now, we’re starting to have some good times. This is just another thing that we’re just going to deal with together. We’re not going to split up like you’ve seen other cities do. We’re not going to do things like that. For the ones that do, I don’t really believe that they’re true Raider fans. I feel their hurt. I’m with you. I hurt too. But at the same time, we’re all in this together and we’re just going to do it together.”
For some Raider fans, those words resonated. They’ll be loyal to this team if they play on the moon and they enjoyed hearing their quarterback make the point to the fan base that leaving Oakland isn’t a reason to turn in your fan card.
But to others, those words hurt. They’re about to be burned by seeing a team they support leave Oakland, depending upon their age, for a second time. For many people, that’s at least once too many.
Carr certainly felt the backlash and did his best Monday night to backtrack and clarify.
Just in case I was misunderstood…I love ALL Raider fans, wherever they are from…. We are in this together, always! #RaiderNation
— Derek Carr (@derekcarrqb) April 18, 2017
Knowing Carr and how much of an effort he’s made in everything he’s said to toe the line and be respectful to both the fans the Raiders will soon leave and the ones they’ll soon join, I’d say this is more of a situation in which Carr got caught up in the moment. I don’t think he’s really out here judging the true fan worthiness of those who have supported the team. But his words were his words and he’ll have to own them.
Overall, it’s never a good idea for anybody — players, management, fellow fans — to judge anybody’s status as a “true fan.”
The NFL makes gobs of money thanks to the loyal fans who don’t wane, through good times and bad, and sometimes even through relocation. The fact that the Raiders did play those years in Los Angeles and build somewhat of a nomadic fan base is one reason the Raider Nation is so large and has a chance to succeed in Vegas.
But like in every breakup, each party has the right to decide if they want to remain friends or not. Choosing to keep an distance from an ex doesn’t mean that your heart wasn’t into that relationship.
If there’s a good to come out of this mini-controversy, it’s that Carr is perhaps the best player on this team to absorb this type of a punch. He has a way of winning back supporters. Remember, he even converted a 49ers fan.
Another positive is that many more players may adopt the Rodney Hudson approach. Three times, the Raiders center said simply, “I don’t know” while being asked for his thoughts on the move to Vegas.
While those questions won’t stop until this team is finally fully relocated in 2020 (sorry, but media isn’t flying in from Vegas to hear Hudson talk about the offensive line), for the players, the less said on the subject is probably better.