The San Francisco 49ers have announced they would like to postpone—if not outright cancel—their annual preseason games with their cross-bay rivals, the Oakland Raiders, after two men were shot and a third man was beaten unconscious during last Saturday’s game. While it’s not yet clear whether this was fan-on-fan violence or gang violence spilling over into a sporting event, one question remains:
Is it time to disband the Raiders?
It may well turn out the perpetrators in this latest incident were 49er fans. It could also turn out that team affiliation had absolutely nothing to do with it. Even so, you have to ask yourself:
Why is it always the Raiders?
Good question. The short answer: It’s the Raiders.
“The Autumn wind is a pirate
Blustering in from sea
With a rollicking song he sweeps along
His face is weather-beaten
He wears a hooded sash
With a silver hat about his head
And a bristling black mustache
He growls as he storms the country
A villain big and bold
And the trees all shake and quiver and quake
As he robs them of their gold.
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.”
~The Battle Hymn of the Raider Nation
The Oakland Raiders’ “bad-ass” image was great marketing in its day, but that day has come and gone and a clever marketing campaign has turned into reality. Plastic swords have become knives, and on-field aggression has turned into off-field violence.
From Lester Hayes to Lyle Alzado to Chester McGlockton, the Raiders always have been known for their toughness, aggressive attitude and, shall we say, less-than-sporting style of play. And while no team wants to be thought of as soft, the Raiders revel in their thuggery.
In the past nine years, the Raiders have led the NFL in penalties three times, been in the top four six times and only been out of the top six once, in 2004 when they were 16th. And the last nine years have been down years for the Raiders franchise. Actually, their behavior was worse when their win-loss record was better.
Having attended more than my share of Raiders games, I can honestly say that no team brings out the criminal in people like they do. But when you spend 50 years crafting an image of pro football’s lovable hoodlums, is it any surprise when you attract real ones?
But even if this is all true—and it is—how can the Oakland Raiders be held accountable for their fans?
Because the Oakland Raiders have cultivated this “Bad Boy” image and their self-described “Raiders Mystique.” They are responsible for pandering to this culture of violence. And for that they should be accountable.
Okay, the NFL is never going to take this proposition seriously, and the Raiders are in no immediate danger of being disbanded. But as a fan of one of the 31 other NFL teams, you have to ask yourself one simple question:
“If the 49ers don’t have to play them anymore, why do we?”