NFL Legend, Oakland native, and the unofficial mayor of Oakland, Marshawn Lynch is making sure football stays in Oakland even with the Raiders moving to Las Vegas at the end of this NFL season. Lynch, who was formally a Raider himself was going to stay with the team had they stayed in Oakland, but with their departure from the city, his hometown, he decided to separate from the team, hang up his cleats, and begin his life after football.
On top of managing his BeastMode clothing line, being a philanthropist, eating skittles, and beginning his acting career in HBO's Westworld, Lynch is now the co-founder and a co-owner of an Indoor Football League (IFL) Team, the Oakland Panthers. The Panthers name pays tribute to the Black Panther movement of the 1960s. The league was founded in 2004 with the merger of the Intense Football League and the United Football League. The Indoor football league is different from the Arena football league in that it follows all of the NFL rules, just on a 50 yard field instead of the 100-yard field the NFL plays on.
Lynch said, “My whole intention was to come back and play with them until they left. Arena football wasn’t something I was looking at, not even a little bit. But when the opportunity presented itself, I’m a big dude on believing in timing and sh*t. This, at the time, really made sense.”
The interest came about when Marshawn was attending an IFL game in Arizona to watch his younger brother, Davonte Sapp-Lynch who plays in the league for the Nebraska Danger. It was while he was at the game when he met his now fellow co-owner Roy Choi and Oakland Panthers team president, Scott McKibben who both said they were committed to bringing a team to Oakland. In typically Marshawn fashion, he did not believe them. What Lynch found out during the time of their conversations was that Choi also owned 2 other IFL teams, so he was very much serious in his pitch to Marshawn.
Once Lynch found out this information, he began to take Choi seriously and the two businessmen met back in Oakland. Choi said when asked "Why Oakland", “Oakland just made sense. You have so many things happening at the same time.”
Lynch said, “This is a given. I’m in with this. The Raiders will be leaving, but the fans will be here. This is a good opportunity and a good timing to where you will still have those fans, that community, and the pride they bring.” In an interview with CBS 5 (San Francisco), Marshawn further said, "This opportunity gives us something to rally around as a community. One thing I know about Oakland is that we're proud as f*ck, so this gives us an opportunity to keep that going."
The Panthers head coach, Kirk Bryan said the team will hold 5 open tryouts; 4 in Northern California and one in Texas. "Anyone who thinks they're good enough can tryout", he said in an interview. Once the team is selected, team management will feed and house players in the East Bay in an undisclosed location. The team's home arena will be the Oakland Arena, the former Oracle Arena where the Golden State Warriors played until last season before moving to San Francisco. They are expected to have 7 home games and have an estimated attendance of 6,000 to 8,000 people. The team will kick off their inaugural season in the spring of 2020.
Lynch believes he'll be the best person to be the bridge between the team and the community because of all the things he brings to the table. He said this venture will be "grassroots to real Oakland, not the new sh*t. The real Oakland sh*t.”