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Since his 2016 hiring as Oakland Athletics president, Dave Kaval relied on a social-media charm offensive and the perception of fan-friendly accessibility to build goodwill with a neglected base and put a smiling face on the occasionally contentious efforts to build a new ballpark within city limits.
From his emoji use that has all the trappings of early 2010s Twitter to his seemingly earnest zeal to respond to the most arcane fan requests online – which inspired a parody account or two – Kaval engaged and occasionally inspired hope among fans of a franchise that defines itself as small market and is now two decades into a search for a new ballpark.
Yet the vibes Kaval engendered and the brand that was built over thousands of interactions was largely flushed with just four characters tweeted from the A’s personal stalking horse.
“Wow!,” Kaval tweeted Monday night from Game 5 of the Golden Knights’ first-round series against Minnesota in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Kaval’s A’s were some 600 miles away, entertaining the Seattle Mariners before 3,019 diehards at the Coliseum, but on this night, there would be no “Boom!” emojis to celebrate a big hit, nor any fix-it suggestions for fans worried about ticket policies or the minutiae of radio streaming.
Instead, just a golly-gee moment during the Knights' elaborate pregame show, a tweet so calculated it serves to undermine the credibility of five years worth of 💯emojis.
Since April 23 – when the A’s presented the city of Oakland with a term sheet outlining details of its $12 billion waterfront development plan that also includes a ballpark – Kaval has taken on a dual public role: A’s gameday ambassador on one hand, and fear-mongering heavy on the other.
Since their May 11 announcement that Major League Baseball is urging them to explore relocation options unless the city fast-tracks approval of a very complex deal that will ultimately cost taxpayers billions of dollars, the mask has come off.
Kaval and A’s officials will visit Las Vegas this week and Portland in the near future, running one of the oldest playbooks in sports history – threatening relocation unless a new stadium is constructed.
It is a bluff until it isn’t, and with Oakland losing the Raiders to Las Vegas and the Warriors across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco, not one taken lightly by the locals.
At the same time, Kaval’s heel turn is enough to get many of his former online acolytes to turn against him and reiterate a sentiment gaining steam in local media and fan reaction: Let them leave.
Next up, figure on some well-placed photos from Las Vegas, perhaps from a patch of dirt just off the Strip that might someday serve as a ballpark. Las Vegas is only too willing to serve as willing mistress in these tales and also showed with the Raiders stadium deal that it’s also willing to sell out taxpayers to add another jewel to its entertainment catalogue.
That’s a tougher sell in Oakland, grappling with significant reckonings on affordable housing, displacement and policing. Gifting a billionaire owner like John Fisher both an enriching waterfront development and rights to do as he sees fit with the Coliseum site should not and will not come with a mere rubber stamp after 60 days to investigate.
In the meantime, Kaval will make his rounds and Monday night, he was just a business guy enjoying a junket, wide-eyed at a playoff game he’s attending on the dime of either Las Vegas or the A’s.
Given that the shot was taken from the cheap seats at T-Mobile Arena, we’re guessing it’s the latter.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: A's president Dave Kaval tweets love for Las Vegas, irking fanbase