Lost in the hoopla of the surprise announcement that Brent Musburger was now in as the Oakland Raiders’ new radio play-by-play announcer was what transpired behind the scenes to open up that role for him. Specifically, why the Raiders soured on fan favorite Greg Papa, who had called Raiders’ games since 1997.
Papa, who has a three-hour radio show on Bay Area station 95.7 The Game along with Bonta Hill, didn’t hold back much on the topic Monday, giving an emotional and candid breakdown of what transpired behind the scenes leading up to his parting as voice of the Raiders. Papa specifically pointed to his commentary on the Raiders’ 2015 decision to interview Mike Shanahan for the then-open head coach position. From The Mercury News:
Three years ago on his radio show Papa criticized Davis for considering Mike Shanahan as a candidate for the head-coaching job that eventually went to Jack Del Rio. Papa viewed it as a slap in the face to Al Davis, the late Raiders’ owner who had carried on a quarter-century feud with Shanahan.
“I was extremely outspoken about how it could not happen, in my opinion,” Papa said. “I threatened to quit as the voice of the team and I would have no association with (Shanahan). The reason I was doing it was my love and respect for Al Davis.
“I felt it to be beyond my comprehension – it still is – that Mike Shanahan could interview to be the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Knowing how much Al Davis loathed him, it just couldn’t happen.”
While the beef with Davis is over thee years old, Papa explained how it simmered on the back-burner up until now and how Mark Davis initially retaliated to the perceived slight in 2015. From The SF Examiner:
“A subsequent phone conversation with Davis did not go well.
“He wound up hanging up on me,” Papa said. “I don’t know exactly what he wanted me to say, if he wanted me to apologize for my feelings. I said, ‘I’m sorry you feel this way. It was not a direct shot at you, but sometimes I feel as though there’s nobody around here to defend Al.’”
Mark Davis, Papa said, had wanted Papa to consult with him before going on-air and airing his grievances about the Shanahan interview. It wouldn’t have helped sooth his emotions, Papa continued.
“As the owner of the team, I understand why he felt that way, but for him to want me to say I’m sorry, I’m not,” Papa said. “I’m not sorry to this very day, and I lost a job that I did for over 21 years at the highest level — a job that I loved beyond any job I’ve had.
“I’ve done it the longest. This is painful for me, personally, to lose this association with this particular team, but I do not take back those words.”
Papa was taken off of the preseason simulcast, and then was removed from the Silver and Black Show.
“I took my penance, and I understand. I thought it was really over,” Papa said. “We never were able to mend fences.”
Papa was informed of the decision earlier this month and was told that his job security since the Shanahan dustup was always tenuous. Papa would later state he would have preferred to stay with the Raiders in their final year in Oakland.
While it is exciting that Musburger will be calling games again, the reality is that the majority of folks listening on the radio this upcoming season would probably be more comfortable with Papa continuing his long-term role. The move to part ways from him a year before the move to Las Vegas probably accelerates a lot of Oakland-based fans’ emotional divorce with the team.
On the flip side, Musburger is certainly no spring chicken and having him get a year under his belt in his new role before the team moves to Las Vegas certainly makes some level of sense. Regardless of the pros and cons of the move, it’s certainly disheartening to know that a three-year old perceived slight from a thin-skinned owner may ultimately have been the deciding criteria for the surprising move.