Marshawn Lynch to return to football as co-founder of Oakland-based indoor team

Torrey Hart
·Yahoo Sports Contributor

The day after the Oakland Raiders won the final season-opener in their longtime stadium, former running back Marshawn Lynch announced he’s helping to start another football team just a couple hundred feet away.

Lynch has co-founded and is a co-owner of the Oakland Panthers, a new indoor football team, first reported by The Mercury News. The team will play at Oakland Arena – formerly known at Oracle Arena, recently vacated by the Warriors – starting this spring, and its name pays homage to the city’s connection to the 1960s Black Panther movement.

Below is the team’s logo shown outside Oakland Arena:

The Panthers will play in the professional Indoor Football League, which was created in 2008, and is one tier behind the Arena Football League in the indoor/arena league ranks. The regular season is expected to be 14 games long.

Lynch, 33, got involved with the new team when he went to watch his younger brother play in an Arizona IFL game earlier this year, and met two of the other co-owners.

“Yeah, I went to go check my brother out and I kind of ran into them after the game,” Lynch told The Mercury News. “I had a good-a— time while I was at the game. When they said ‘We’re going to bring a team to Oakland’, I didn’t really believe that.”

After meetings with the other owners, his perspective shifted, and Lynch sees the Raiders’ impending departure as an opportunity to capitalize on the team’s notoriously devoted fan base.

“This is a given. I’m in with this,” Lynch said. “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.”

Marshawn Lynch solidifying legacy in Oakland

Since his days at Oakland Technical High School, and then his college career at Cal, Lynch has been a fan-favorite around the East Bay. From hosting community events to placing Skittles vending machines around the city, he has ingrained himself in the community, and came out of retirement to play for the Raiders after spending the prior six years with the Seattle Seahawks.

Lynch says he intended to play in the silver and black until the team left for Las Vegas, but he retired again – seemingly for good – after an injury-shortened 2018 season. So when he got the chance to take part in another local team, Lynch seized it.

“[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 (stuff). This, at the time, really made sense,” he said.

According to The Mercury News, the founders are hoping for between 6,000 and 8,000 fans per game and that “local pride” will fuel the Panthers’ viability.

In addition to bringing in the new team, Lynch made an appearance late last year to lobby for the Oakland Athletics to stay in town and get a new stadium. His message then was simple: “We’re losing the Warriors. We’re losing the Raiders. Best not lose the A’s.”

That A’s ballpark project is moving along – albeit slowly – with team brass committed to staying in The Town, so here’s to hoping Lynch goes two-for-two and begins to fill the void left by the other departed professional teams.

FILE - In this May 23, 2017, file photo, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch stretches during NFL football practice in Alameda, Calif. Oakland may always be home for Lynch but Seattle was the city that truly made him a star. The Seahawks (2-3) will get an up-close look at Lynch again this week for the first time since he retired following the 2015 season when they travel to London to face the Raiders (1-4).  (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
Oakland native Marshawn Lynch is part of a group bringing a new football team to the city next year. (AP Photo)

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