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Photos: Oakland A’s fans boycott Opening Day

A person is holding up a yellow and green "Sell" sign next to someone with a clown face cutout. They appear to be at an event.
Lety Ramos holds up a “Sell” sign as fans boycotted the Oakland A’s home opener at the Oakland Coliseum on Thursday. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

For baseball lovers, Opening Day is usually a day filled with excitement and hope as the Major League Baseball season begins.

But for many local fans of the soon-to-be former Oakland Athletics, this latest chapter of the franchise’s existence isn’t worth celebrating. On Thursday night, hundreds of people staged a boycott of the game in the Oakland Coliseum parking lot as team officials and owner John Fisher continue with plans to move the team to Las Vegas.

Instead of going into the stadium to watch the game, fans tailgated outside, wearing shirts and carrying signs with the word “Sell” and hawking merchandise expressing their discontent with the A’s organization.

"The fans are always going to be here," said boycott organizer Bryan Johansen, who is a part-owner of the Last Dive Bar, an online store that sells merchandise celebrating the history of the Coliseum. "This is what we do. We put on for the city and our team. It just sucks that the team doesn't want it."

Baseball fans in A's gear, one dressed as Elvis holding a "Viva Oakland" sign, others chatting with drinks, and a bridge in the background.
Fans protest in the Oakland Coliseum parking lot before the Oakland A’s game against the Cleveland Guardians on Thursday. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Oakland artist Bryan Kelder, 33, said participating in the boycott made him feel both sad and joyful. While it was heartwarming to see so many other fans out there to support each other, the reason that brought them together was devastating.

"This is the ambiance and the feelings of the painting I need to capture," Kelder said as he painted the scene in the parking lot. "The beautiful thing is that we are out here enjoying this, and the heartbreaking thing is that it is leaving."

Thursday’s demonstration was the latest chapter in an ongoing rebellion by a fan base that blames Fisher for the team’s current state of affairs.

Last season, fed-up fans of the green and gold hatched a “reverse boycott” plan which brought out droves of A’s fans to pack the Coliseum while wearing kelly green shirts with the word “Sell” on them—a message directed at Fisher.

The major issue for Fisher has been the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, an aging stadium that was built in 1966 and is the fourth-oldest in the league—behind Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium—but lacks the iconic charm of those venerable venues.

In November 2023, MLB owners approved the A’s relocation bid in a unanimous decision which would move the team to a stadium to be built on the Las Vegas Strip with $380 million in public financing approved by the Nevada government. The A’s hope to play in the new stadium in 2028, but with its Oakland lease set to expire after the 2024 season it’s unclear where they will play from 2025 through 2027.

A crowded outdoor gathering with people in green attire, some with Oakland A's logos, and a SELLS flag.
Ryan Talyat waves his “Sell” flag before the home opener between the Oakland A’s and the Cleveland Guardians at the Oakland Coliseum on Thursday. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

During Thursday’s boycott, Ben Verhoek, a tattoo artist who has been an A's fan since he was a kid, passed out "F— John Fisher" stickers he designed. Verhoek, 34, said he renounced his A's fanhood as soon as the organization announced it was leaving for Vegas.

"He's basically dragged this franchise through the mud," Verhoek told The Standard, referring to Fisher. "Through thick and thin everyone has basically stuck with the team. Even through the worst of times knowing how he does, thinking through the end that there would be a nice shiny stadium at Howard Terminal. He drags us through that and screws us."

Verhoek said that he is hopeful Fisher screws up the Vegas plans.

"I keep the support with the fans," he said, adding that he had no ill will toward fans who wanted to continue to support the team. "I feel like this is someone dying who is close to us and everyone grieves in their own way."

A man in a brown hoodie smiling, making a peace sign, with a stadium and fans in the background.
Ben Verhoek, 34, a tattoo artist who has been an Oakland A's fan since he was a kid, passed out "F--- Fisher" stickers he designed during Thursday's boycott. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

Two such fans, John Contreras, 53, of San Jose, and Reuben Martinez, 31, of Oakland, lined up early to enter the Coliseum for the A’s home opener against the Cleveland Guardians. The two said that although they detested Fisher, they had to support the team for one last season.

“I’m an Oakland kid,” Martinez said. “I dislike Fisher and [former owner] Lew Wolff. They’re both clowns to me.”

“It’s the last season. You have to be out here,” Contreras said. “Fisher is a billionaire who can afford to pay for a new stadium the size he wants in Oakland, but he doesn’t want to.”

Both men said they understand why fans want to boycott the team this season.

“It’s their choice,” Contreras said. “But my choice is to simply see the players and to see them win as many games as possible this year.”

Contreras said he is approaching a fan milestone of his own with this season marking the first time he will sit behind home plate.

“My first time will be June 23 when they have their 50-year anniversary of the 1974 World Series team,” he said, adding that he plans to take pictures with the '74 team as he did in the last two years with the 1972 and 1973 teams that also won a title. “I’m thankful we as fans will be able to have that moment.”