It’s (almost) time for Oakland mayor Sheng Thao to call John Fisher’s bluff

UPDATE: The original story has been updated with reports that SB509 will be heard in a special session Wednesday. More info below.

Back on April 10, A’s fan Stu Clary signed a petition to get John Fisher to sell the team and keep the franchise in Oakland. That wasn’t enough for him, so he threw out an idea to the Twitterverse: What if A’s fans held a reverse boycott?

After some quick workshopping, Clary and fellow fans decided June 13 would be a good day to make a statement. It quickly caught on like wildfire. Later that week, Clary and Co. started spreading the word on social media with fliers and tweets. On April 18, just eight days after his initial tweet, Clary was featured in a New York Times article with the headline, ‘Oakland A’s Fans Plan Reverse Boycott of Team in June.’

Guess what happened a day later? The A’s abruptly announced that they were walking away from the negotiating table and had a “binding agreement” to move to Las Vegas.

My theory is that Fisher, the A’s reclusive and tight-fisted owner, got fed up with the momentum of the reverse boycott and told his cronies to make a move to Sin City. Welp, that half-baked strategy isn’t working. 

The A’s have since backed out of the 49-acre Wild Wild West site and are trying to patch together a ballpark deal on a nine-acre slice of the Tropicana Hotel lot on The Strip. Senate Bill 509, the A’s formal proposal for the 30,000-seat stadium, has since been put on ice by Nevada legislators, who stalled the bill after its lone committee hearing on Memorial Day.

Nevada adjourned its 2023 session Monday night and will head to a special session Tuesday night, but it appears the state won’t consider SB509. However, Jaclyn Schultz of FOX5 in Las Vegas is reporting that SB509 will be looked at in another special session Wednesday, so stay tuned. (NOTE: She posted this tweet as I was initially writing this blog, so kinda changed where I was coming from, since the A’s are back on the table in Vegas this week.)

For now, the A’s plans in Vegas have taken a hit. Which leads us back to Oakland.

On April 19, mayor Sheng Thao’s first reaction was to declare Oakland would “cease negotiations” with the A’s on Howard Terminal. Now that the Vegas deal has dried up in the desert, Thao is eagerly awaiting a call from the franchise to come back to the negotiating table.

Casey Pratt of ABC7 interviewed Thao Tuesday, as she gave her first public comments since the Nevada legislature adjourned. Pratt asked Thao if she’d pick up a phone call from Fisher and the A’s.

“Absolutely,” Thao said. “I would 100 percent take that call. I would cancel my meetings and have a meeting with them. Because we were so close – we were so close to a deal. I truly believe that the A’s should be rooted here in Oakland. That’s what the fans deserve.”

If the Vegas deal falls through in the special session, it’s time for Oakland to call Fisher’s bluff.

The city has done its part to keep the A’s in Oakland at Howard Terminal, rounding up $375 million in infrastructure grants to make the project a reality. As Pratt has reported, the A’s and Oakland were $88 million away from an agreement when the club stopped negotiating, and the city has another $100 million in grants pending review, which could come down the pipe this month.

The onus is on Fisher to prove that he can gather up the $5.8 billion in private investment the A’s have proposed for their Howard Terminal vision, which includes the $1 billion, 35,000-seat stadium, 3,000 residential units, an 18-acre waterfront park, 3,000-seat performing arts center, hotels and commercial space.

Given that Fisher’s family Gap stock is cratering – it has dropped more than 75 percent in the past 26 months – and his other value is tied up in the A’s and MLS’ San Jose Earthquakes, there should be major skepticism that Fisher can pull off such a huge deal in Oakland.

Granted, the A’s would probably pool investment from other sources to reach its $5.8 billion commitment for Howard Terminal, but it’s hard to believe Fisher can get so much money together, when they’re looking for so many handouts in Vegas for a $1.5 billion ballpark project.

Phones work two ways. If the A’s remain deal-free in Vegas, the mayor should apply pressure to the A’s, call Fisher, and ask them to come back to the negotiating table to fulfill their end of the deal.

If Fisher continues to have cold feet in Oakland and can’t work out an extra-inning deal with Vegas, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred should be compelled to seek new A’s ownership, because Fisher doesn’t appear to have the resources to find a solution to this headache.