WHEN THE RAIDERS announce Thursday that Sunday's home game against Kansas City will be blacked out on local TV, the news will be completely expected.

We're getting used to it. The only home game shown on local TV this season was the Monday night opener, for which the blackout deadline was extended. The last home game, a 38-0 loss to the Jets on Oct. 25, was played before the smallest assemblage of NFL fans here in 41 years.

This is not what managing partner Al Davis had in mind when he moved the team from Los Angeles and signed a 16-year lease to play in Oakland.

Nor does it delight the voiceless hostages, also known as his minority partners.

But somebody, or some group, is bound to be heard.

And the smart money is on the fans, whose discontent already is visible with the number of empty seats. A sour economy and shrinking checking accounts have compelled them to be more careful with their spending and more vigilant in seeking reasons to justify what spending they choose to do.

Fans don't mind spending their hard-earned dollars for a thrill. But they neither want to nor can afford to buy depressing afternoons at the stadium. So they are venting like never before, making unprecedented requests. Realizing they hold a measure of power, they are starting to exercise it.

The Chiefs come to town without star running back Larry Johnson. He was cut this week. Team management, which already had suspended him for what may be described as conduct unbecoming of a human being, decided enough was enough.

The decision was endorsed by Chiefs fans, who last week circulated an online petition urging the team to dump Johnson before he gained the 75 yards he needed to become the franchise's all-time leading rusher. More than 32,000 signatures were collected by the time he was released.

It was a team decision, but the fans had a voice. They surely were heard by Chiefs management.

In Cleveland, where the entire organization is in disarray, owner Randy Lerner spent two hours last week meeting with two representatives from the Dawg Pound, the famously identifiable section of Browns superfans not unlike Oakland's Black Hole. Lerner was aware the pair, Mike Randall and Tony Schafer, were organizing a fan boycott of Monday night's home game against Baltimore.

The boycott was designed to occur before the opening kickoff, to reveal an empty stadium at the beginning of a national telecast. Lerner swung into action and the boycott was averted. Randall and Schafer came away believing Lerner is sincere about bringing a winner to Cleveland.

The Browns may not get any better, but their fans are being addressed.

Then there is Washington, an altogether different situation, where one high-profile and influential fan has spoken out.

John Riggins, Hall of Famer and Super Bowl MVP, has spent most of this season going public to blister team owner Dan Snyder.

Remember when former Raiders MVP Rich Gannon made some candid observations earlier this season and the team responded with a foaming-at-the-mouth conniption fit? Well, Riggins' rants make Gannon's critique sound like pillow talk.

Riggins is speaking for many of the fans. Snyder's widespread unpopularity, along with that of general manager Vinny Cerrato, has led to an in-season change of stadium policy. No longer are fans allowed to enter FedEx Field with posters — of any kind. No more long-distance hellos to servicemen overseas, no more marriage proposals, no more "We Love the Hogs" signs — all because there were too many signs conveying dissent with Snyder and Cerrato.

Fans have gone to the Raiders and met with chief executive Amy Trask, whose job gets tougher by the day. Those fans often remain unsatisfied, though no less by the results of the meetings than the overall product.

So the frustrated legions continue to ponder other ways to be heard, including filling the parking lots for pregame tailgating and remaining outside for at least part of the game. There has been talk of petitions.

Many Raiders fans already have formulated their protest by not renewing season tickets. It will be evident again Sunday that others are staying away, leaving empty seats as their message.

It is part of a trend gathering momentum around the NFL. Fans are flexing their muscles hoping to get heard, with reason to believe they will succeed.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.