Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred provided a tone deaf response to fans of the Oakland Athletics' "reverse boycott" on Tuesday (June 13).
The Oakland fans intended to fill the Oakland Coliseum amid team owner John Fisher's reported plan to move the team. A reported total 27,759 fans packed the stadium for the Athletics' 2-1 win against the Tampa Bay Rays, which was more than triple their home average of 8,555, though the commissioner appeared to sell it short.
"It's great to see what is this year almost an average Major League Baseball crowd in the facility for one night. That's a great thing," Manfred said via ESPN.
Manfred claimed he felt "sorry for the fans in Oakland," but didn't appear to be convinced by the protest.
"I do not like this outcome. I understand why they feel the way they do. I think the real question is what is it that Oakland was prepared to do? There is no Oakland offer," Manfred said via ESPN. "They never got to the point where they had a plan to build a stadium at any site. It's not just John Fisher. ... The community has to provide support, and at some point you come to the realization that it's just not going to happen."
A spokesperson for Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao issued a statement to ESPN in response to Manfred, which pushed back against the commissioner's characterization.
"There was a very concrete proposal under discussion and Oakland had gone above and beyond to clear hurdles, including securing funding for infrastructure, providing an environmental review and working with other agencies to finalize proposals," the statement reads. "The reality is the A's ownership had insisted on a multi billion-dollar, 55-acre project that included a ballpark, residential, commercial and retail space. In Las Vegas, for whatever reason, they seem satisfied with a 9-acre leased ballpark on leased land. If they had proposed a similar project in Oakland, we feel confident a new ballpark would already be under construction."
The A's reportedly purchased land near the Las Vegas strip ahead of an impending relocation, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in April. The deal is for a 49-acre property located at Dean Martin Drive and Tropicana Avenue, which is owned by Red Rocks Resorts, the parent company of Station Casinos.
Manfred had previously said the league supported the A's efforts to focus on a potential move to the Vegas area in a statement provided to the Review-Journal at the time of the reported land purchase.
“We support the A’s turning their focus on Las Vegas and look forward to them bringing finality to this process by the end of the year,” Manfred said.
A's president Dave Kaval said the team was planning to build a $1.5 billion partially retractable roof stadium, which is planned to include an ancillary development featuring food and beverage establishments and an amphitheater. The A's, who have played in Oakland since 1958, were initially reported to be exploring possible relocation in 2021.
Las Vegas has already added two professional sports franchises in recent years, which includes the NFL's Las Vegas Raiders, who moved from Oakland in 2020 and the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights, who won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history this week, through expansion in 2017.