Founded in 1960, the Oakland Raiders have always had a reputation as rough, tough, hard-hitting rebels. They might have acquired that label from having working-class, blue-collar origins, but it’s also possible that their bad-boy street cred stems from their aggressive playing style and relentless fans.
After three unsuccessful start-up years under three different coaches, Al Davis was appointed head coach and general manager, which helped the franchise gain momentum. Although Davis was the youngest person in history to hold this type of management position, he proved himself a worthy candidate by making incredible contributions to professional football throughout his career. For example, he was one of the commissioners responsible for facilitating the groundbreaking merger between the AFL and NFL in 1970. Davis was also a strong advocate for civil rights and equal opportunity, as he hired the NFL’s first African-American head coach (Art Shell) and first female chief executive (Amy “Princess of Darkness” Trask).
The ‘70s were an outstanding decade for the Raiders, thanks to an all-star roster and coach John Madden. Under Madden’s leadership, quarterback Ken Stabler set the team record for most passing yards and passing touchdowns. Oakland made the playoffs nearly every season, and their first Super Bowl victory came in 1976 when they beat the Minnesota Vikings 32-14. They snatched the Vince Lombardi trophy yet again in ‘80 and ’83 under head coach Tom Flores, leading to a total of three titles within eight years. It just goes to show that Davis’ favorite phrases, “commitment to excellence” and “just win, baby,” weren’t merely sayings, but a way of life.
One of the more controversial periods for the club was during its temporary relocation to Los Angeles. Al Davis was in favor of the move, but it was met with resistance and took a court battle to make it happen. More trouble came when Davis started to butt heads with running back Marcus Allen, who he believed was faking injuries. Even though Allen always proved to be a skilled goal-line and short-yard runner (and was Super Bowl XVIII MVP), Davis signed an MLB player, Bo Jackson, to take Allen’s place. Tension in the franchise and declining game attendance meant that by the end of the ‘80s, a significant change would have to take place. In 1995, the Raiders moved back to Oakland.
Despite their obstacles and issues over the years, they have been blessed with a handful of extraordinary athletes. For instance, Tim Brown, aka “Mr. Raider” himself, was a wide receiver on the team for 16 years. He first showed his talent by winning the Heisman Trophy while playing college football at Notre Dame, and he was eventually inducted into the NFL's Hall of Fame.
In honor of players like Brown, the franchise reuses jersey numbers instead of retiring them. Their philosophy is that seeing rookies wearing the numbers of great players before them will remind people of the team’s former triumphs. The only exception is Jim Otto’s discontinued double-zero jersey, which was a homonym pun of his name (“aught-O”) and an AFL marketing gimmick.
If there’s one thing no one should underestimate about Oakland, it’s the loyal, dedicated fanbase known as “Raider Nation.” Not only do supporters deck themselves out in silver and black, they also don fierce face masks and skeleton pirate costumes. They chant traditional team anthems, like “The Raiders Theme (Autumn Wind)” and “Silver and Black Attack,” but famous rapper Ice Cube also recorded his own rally song that’s popular among fans. At home games, the rowdiest, most hardcore marauders sit together in sections 104-107 of the O.co Coliseum, creating an intimidating area known as the Black Hole. Not many teams can boast that kind of dynamic presence, but then again, no team has a history like the Raiders.