The Raiders Might Have Left for Vegas, But This Bay Area Bar Didn’t Get the Memo

Raider Nation still has a home in this San Leandro strip mall

October 20, 2023 6:42 am
Exterior of Rickey's Sports Lounge
Rickey's Sports Lounge in San Leandro, CA, has been a consistent home base for Raider Nation

It’s 15 minutes before kickoff on the third Sunday in October, and a Raiders fan sits at a table at Rickey’s Sports Lounge in San Leandro, California, tightening up her look. Her extensions are perfectly matched to her sequined Raiders shirsey, big silver hoop earrings and silver and black Nike Air Foamposite kicks. She heads to the bar for a shot of tequila, scooting past a guy in a vintage black denim jacket embellished with Lester Hayes’ 37, and another guy in a Hugo Boss leather coat with the Raider logo emblazoned on the back. 

Custom Raiders fits like these were a staple at the Oakland Coliseum — at least until the team bolted for Las Vegas, and the $1.9 billion Allegiant Stadium, ahead of the 2020 season. When the Raiders were still the Oakland Raiders, Rickey’s was home base for Raider Nation during away games, a happening shitshow five miles from the Coliseum. But now all games are de facto away games, and moments before the Raiders-Patriots kickoff on Sunday, it’s eerily quiet. On the bar’s main screen, the as-yet undefeated 49ers are battling the Browns late in the fourth quarter — and the crowd’s attention is fixed on the spectacle. Are the bitter-enders of Raider Nation at last fed up, and hanging up their proverbial shoulder spikes for good? Has something even more inconceivable happened: Is Rickey’s, at long last, a Niners bar? 

As the Niners, down two, line up for a 41-yard game-winning field goal with three seconds left, the table of Niner fans next to us is glowing. The ball is snapped, and rookie kicker Jake Moody’s kick sails right. After sailing through the first five games of the season, the Niners have lost — and like a sudden gust of the autumn wind, the bar goes berserk. A DJ who’d just set up his decks promptly drops Ice Cube’s “Come And Get It (Raiders Anthem)” and the vibe shifts dramatically as the Raiders and Patriots game takes over the main screen. Rickey’s has transformed. 

You’d miss Rickey’s if you weren’t looking for it. In an East Bay strip mall, the facade looks like a Swiss chalet with a distinctive A-frame entryway. It was called simply “Ricky’s” for decades, until the longtime owner, Ricky Ricardo, passed away in 2020. The bar changed hands and was reopened as “Rickey’s Sports Lounge” earlier this year — both an homage to Ricardo and an obvious hat-tip to Oakland A’s legend Rickey Henderson.

Neon Raiders sign under RIckey's logo
“Rickey’s Sports Lounge” was renamed as an homage to Rickey Henderson
People sitting under a canopy outside watching TV
Rickey’s offers outdoor screens and pop-up canopies for group reservations

Despite all the changes, Rickey’s still goes hard on Raiders game days. There’s damn near 100 TVs, including a few coveted outdoor screens reserved for groups. Pop-up canopies shade the picnic tables, giving off that Coliseum parking lot vibe. Back inside, there are multiple VIP lounges outfitted with plush couches — almost like some of that Vegas glitz has rubbed off on San Leandro.

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As to that move: I saw little evident resentment here — it’s business as usual. When Raiders receiver Jakobi Meyers scores the game’s first TD, that notorious “RAAAAIDERRRSSS” chant — a constant call on the Coliseum concourse — reverberates through the room. Every third down stop is celebrated, as the DJ plays cognac-soaked funk and the Ice Cube Raiders anthem multiple times. On the flipside, people collectively scream at the screen, with coach Josh McDaniels a frequent target. “Snap the ball!” people yell at one point, hoping the Pats won’t have time to challenge a favorable spot. For a lifelong, fairly tortured Raiders fan like myself, Rickey’s feels comfortable. Like a support group.

Back of Nike Air Force Ones with initials printed on them
“Raider Nae’s” custom Air Force Ones

One fan, who introduces herself as “Raider Nae,” rocks custom Air Force Ones with her nickname embroidered on them. She has season tickets in Vegas, but decided to keep it local for this one. As one of her friends waves silver and black pom-poms at the screen on tight plays, I discover that another couple sitting nearby are headed to Chicago next weekend for the Raiders/Bears game. I am, too — so we swap numbers and hope to meet up for a tailgate at Soldier Field. You won’t find the unparalleled, unabashed chaos of the Coliseum at Rickey’s, but the distinct #Raidernation community ethos of parking lot tailgates feels very much alive here.

Some things have changed: When I try to order the menu’s Hennessy BBQ wings, the server explains that a former employee had prepared the titular sauce, and it’s no more. To make up for it, though, Rickey’s pours their Hennessy shots with a lead fist. Those shots pair exceptionally well with perfectly fried lemon pepper wings, fried oysters and catfish sliders. 

Fan with pom poms and Raiders merch at Rickeys
The distinct #Raidernation community ethos of parking lot tailgates feels very much alive at Rickey’s

The Raiders lead 16-10 after three quarters, and everyone’s dancing as the DJ drops Eric B. & Rakim’s “I Ain’t No Joke” during the commercial. I walk to the bar again and everyone around its horseshoe shape is either fired up, three sheets to the wind, or flat-out unable to communicate as the fourth quarter starts; it’s a classic Raiders crowd. A hyped-up dude daps me up and says, “I got big money on the Nation today! Line opened at three, but I got it at five. Fuck it. For the Nation, baby!” I’m rooting for the guy. 

The fourth quarter of the game is classic push-pull Raiders BS. McDaniels and Belichick, two men who refuse to adapt to the league’s shifting offensive play-calling, are trying to out-conservative each other. The Raiders win, by four, and somehow, Raiders are back up to 3-3 on the season. This means that the gambler loses — even when they win, the Raiders find a way for someone to take an L. But his face doesn’t show it as the DJ drops an E-40 joint after the win, and the gambler jumps up and down and celebrates, along with the rest of the jam-packed bar.

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