The Oakland Raiders: The NFL’s Most Transcendent Franchise


The Oakland Raiders are the most transcendent franchise in NFL history.

On November 21st, 2016, over 76,000 fans gathered in Mexico City to watch the Oakland Raiders 27-20 victory over the Houston Texans. Just the second NFL contest to take place in the country, the game meant more to the tens-of-thousands of Hispanics in attendance.

Houston fans represented in droves, serving as a pseudo-home team due to geographical proximity. But for Hispanic Raiders fans, the Silver and Black represents more than just a fanbase.

Raider Nation — a perfect conundrum of all races and ethnicities, united for the sake of the Silver and Black. The fanbase serves as a gathering place for the poor and the rich, white, black, yellow or brown.

There may be some fans who desire to follow President-elect Donald Trump’s idea of building a wall to keep out Mexican illegals, but in the pits of the blackhole at the Oakland Coliseum, all are one for the greater cause. While “Black Lives Matter” vs. “All Lives Matter” continues to cause riff in the U.S., black and white fans interlock hands and hug to celebrate Raider touchdowns.

It’s like that across the world, for the Raiders have one of the largest, most loyal fanbases in sports history. For some it may be hard to understand why, considering the team hasn’t had a winning season since 2002.

Some may contribute it to legendary rap group N.W.A.’s branding of the Silver and Black in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Other’s may contribute it to the simple but sheek design of the Raiders jerseys, helmets and fan apparel.

Baton Rouge rapper Lil’ Boosie once said, “Back In The Days, when they first hit with them Jay’s, N**** would let you have it, behind a Raiders Starter Jacket.”

Boosie is referencing the turbulent late ’80’s, when the Starter Clothing line accumulated $183.5 million between 1989-90. The jackets and coats were a hot commodity in suburbs and ghettos alike, especially the Raiders silky black and silver. This fashion trend caused a nationwide string of robberies and murders.

Others may look back to the team’s golden era, when the team won three Super Bowl championships in 976,1980 and 1983. From 1970-1990, the Raiders made 13 playoff appearances. There was once a time that the Raiders were the winningest franchise in all of sports.

Maybe it was because of legendary head coach John Madden, the Super Bowl XI champion who is the namesake of the Madden video game series. Or possibly Hall of Fame Raiders like Tim Brown, Ken “Snake” Stabler, Willie Brown or Marcus Allen, among others.

While the aforementioned players are viable reasons to love the Silver and Black, it’s the contributions of the teams most polarizing figure that has made this team the most racially progressive franchise in NFL history. Late owner Al Davis often gets flacked for his controversial moves, including moving the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles, and subsequently back in 1995.

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But what is less talked about, are the racial milestones that Davis and the Raiders franchise weren’t afraid to take.

In 1960, Oakland took a chance on Tom Flores, a former Canadian Football League quarterback recently cut by the Washington Redskins. Upon becoming a starter, Flores became the first Hispanic starting quarterback in NFL history.

In 1979, Flores took over as head coach for the Raiders after briefly serving as an assistant. In 1981, Flores would become the first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV. Flores’ quarterback was Mexican-American Jim Plunkett, who became the first latino to win Super Bowl MVP.

While serving as head coach of the Raiders, Davis was known for taking quirky chances with his playbook. By some, Davis is cited as the creator of the “slot” receiver position. Davis employed a speedy African-American receiver named Art Powell to be the position’s blueprint. In that 1963 season, Oakland improved from 1-13 the previous year to 10-4.

Five years later, Davis made Eldridge Dickey the first African-American quarterback selected in the first round in professional football.

Fast forward to 1989, when Davis made another unprecedented move in making Art Shell the first African-American coach in modern history. A three-time champ as a Raider, Shell made eight Pro Bowl appearances during the team’s heyday. Shell led the then Los Angeles Raiders to three playoff appearances in six seasons.

And who can forget about Amy Trask, the Princess of Darkness. Trask served as CEO of the Raiders under Al Davis from 1997 to 2013, the first female CEO ever of an NFL team. Another groundbreaking move by this transcendent franchise.

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Time travel to 2016, where punter Marquette King is taking the NFL by storm. A black punter, King is a minority at a position historically reserved for white players. King combines the melanin of Reggie Roby with the leg of Ray Guy, and swagger to match. In a league where skill position superstars make the magazine covers, King is breaking down doors for children of color.

For many, Raider Nation symbolizes unity, a brother and sisterhood of all races, religions and ethnicities. While the wins come and go, the symbolism of the franchise lasts forever.