Oakland Raiders fans have a bad rep.
Saying the words “Oakland Raiders fan” conjures up images of a shady character. A gangbanger. Someone parents wouldn’t want their kids around.
Legendary writer Hunter S. Thompson once said, "The massive Raider Nation is beyond doubt the sleaziest and rudest and most sinister mob of thugs and wackos ever assembled."
The fact of the matter is, though, that Raiders fans are misunderstood.
The first reason for this is their ties to gang culture. The Raiders logo is forever associated with NWA and the origins of gangsta rap. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E were the forefathers of gangsta rap and, if you couldn’t tell, gangsta rap is associated with gangs, violence, and crime. Watch the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Straight Outta LA if you don’t understand what I’m talking about.
So maybe the image of the stereotypical Raiders fan being a South Central LA gang member isn’t too far off, but the truth is that the guy repping Raiders gear to look cool isn’t truly a member of Raider Nation. I’m not saying that gang members can’t be fans of the Raiders. I’m not discriminating against gang members here but I am saying that the Raiders' strong association with gang culture has painted a picture of Raiders fans that is grossly inaccurate.
Raiders fans are passionate. Raiders fans embody the rebellious spirit of a pirate (the Raiders logo, just in case you didn’t know). As the poem that is blared over the loudspeakers before Raiders home games, “The Autumn Wind,” says,
“The Autumn wind is a Raider
Pillaging just for fun
He'll knock you 'round and upside down
And laugh when he's conquered and won.”
That poem is known as “The Battle Hymn of Raider Nation” and perfectly embodies what Raider Nation stands for.
The Raiders have always been a team associated with outlaws and thugs. The late Al Davis wasn’t afraid to take chances on players with baggage or off-field issues. Raiders players have had nicknames like “The Assassin” and “Dr. Death.” They’re tough and they’re a colorful group. In the same vein, Raider Nation is not exclusive. It’s not a homogenous group. Raider Nation welcomes everyone, from ex-cons to lawyers.
As reported by Roger Mills of the St. Petersburg Times, John Madden, who coached the Raiders to their win in Super Bowl XI, said, "You never hear someone say, 'I'm kinda a Raider fan.' It's either all the way, with great passion being a fan, or it's nothing. That's what being a Raider fan is."
Are Raiders fans rowdy? Yes, take a look at the Black Hole and the ridiculous costumes worn by followers of the Silver and Black.
Do they take it to the extreme sometimes? Yes, in a preseason game last season between the Raiders and the 49ers there were two fights and a shooting in the parking lot. Given, the game was held in San Francisco but I’m sure Raiders fans took more of the blame.
A few bad apples have given a bad reputation to the entire Raider Nation crop. Raider Nation is rogue and Raider Nation might get a little overzealous at times, but they aren’t a mass gathering of criminals.
Raiders fans are some of the most passionate fans in the league but they are looked at like a stadium-sized meeting of gangbangers anonymous. The Oakland Raiders organization didn’t ask Eazy-E to don a Los Angeles Raiders snapback in this photograph but he did and now the Raiders are suffering.
This article won’t change the world. Raider Nation will continue to be the most misunderstood fanbase in professional sports but the organization should be happy that they have such a diehard fanbase. They could be Jacksonville Jaguars fans...and no one wants that.