What I’m about to do constitutes “beating a dead horse” in many blue states — or “animal husbandry” if you’re in a red state. So, if you have a weak stomach (or think the Raiders have exclusive rights to the term “Nation”), you might want to look away.
In the recent months, I have been increasingly critical of the Oakland Raiders for what I have perceived as the promotion of a particular stereotype: that of violence and marauding. That stereotype, as commenter Tru will point out, is unfair . Many teams and their respective fans, in Tru’s opinion, are guilty of the same transgressions as the Raiders. This certainly may be true, and I appreciate Tru’s willingness to defend a group he identifies so closely with. Still, my — ahem! – true appreciation for Tru is twofold: He reads my critiques, and he thoughtfully responds. This latter point is probably the more important of the two — as you’ll see.
The 49ers and Raiders have been linked in the news twice this week. The first, reported Aug. 18 by CBS’s Clark Judge, was that Jed York had publicly announced his willingness to resume scrimmaging against the Raiders. “We can go to Napa,” York intimated. “They can come here. We can look at a neutral site. It doesn’t have to be a preseason game. We can go to Kezar [stadium, former home of the 49ers, located in Golden Gate Park]. We can go to Youell Field in Oakland [former home of the Raiders] and have an open scrimmage, get a couple thousand fans to come in and see and make it free or do something that raises money for charity — and not worry about having a preseason game; just scrimmage against somebody else.”
Though this could have been public posturing, York seemed to be genuinely enthusiastic about the opportunity of bridging the ever-widening gap between the two organizations and their fan-bases. Beyond that, this move would make sense: It would break the monotony of camp, increase competition, and — as York noted — possibly be free to fans. It would seem to be a win-win-win.
The second newsworthy story was broken by Matthias Gafni of the Contra Costa Times. According to Gafni, two 26-year-old San Francisco 49ers fans are suing their team of allegiance for failing to “proactively create an environment that was free from fighting, taunting or threatening remarks and/or gestures and gang activity.”
This stems from last August’s preseason game between the 49ers and Raiders, a game in which two men were beaten unconscious and two others were shot. The two litigants in this case, Daniel Long and Gabriel Navarrette, were attacked by a group of men who did not attend the game, but who tailgated in Candlestick’s internal parking lot. While exiting the game, Navarrette was attacked and beaten unconscious by the group of tailgaters. When Long attempted to aid Navarette, he too became a victim, getting shot four times.
Long and Navarette claim that “Safety concerns expressed more than 25 years earlier had not abated and, in fact, had escalated with the October 2010 stabbing in the parking lot before the Raiders game,” citing the testimony of former and current 49ers, including Joe Montana and Brian Jennings.
Ultimately, Long and Navarette believe the 49ers should have taken heed of the 2009 Raiders-Broncos stabbing incident, as well as the Bryan Stow tragedy, and better equipped themselves to, in the words of Gafni, “handle Raider Nation.”
Therein lies the rub: Implicit in the lawsuit is the idea that the “Raider Nation” is a uniquely violent entity that needs to be dealt with in manner not consistent with the other 31 NFL teams and their fan-bases.
While I cannot say whether or not the “Raider Nation” is any more violent than the “Niner Nation,” “Steeler Nation,” or any other fan base that calls themselves a “Nation,” I can say that I don’t necessarily disagree with the implication. But I must admit the following: I am biased.
Maybe it’s the silver and black motif. Maybe it’s Al Davis. Maybe it’s the fact that my good friend once saw a young boy wearing a Rams’ jersey get spit on by a man in a Raiders’ jersey. Maybe it’s what I’ve seen from a small, but extremely vocal, sect of the “Raider Nation.”
The reaction from Raider fans to this week’s news stories has been dumbfounding. Let’s start with York’s announcement regarding shared practices. Below are some responses taken from the “One Nation Raider Nation” Facebook Page, which has over 3,100 “Likes.” Which is to say, over 3,100 people have the opportunity to enter into the conversation regarding the 49ers-Raiders joint practices. Here are the responses (I’ve blacked out last names to respective anonymity):
I’m not sure what’s worse: the homophobic slang or the fact that no-one joined in to quiet this veritable hate speech. Of the 3,100 Raiders’ fans who could have participated in this discussion in a positive manner, no-one did.
For the sake of comparison, here are responses from the same topic on the SF 49ers – We Want Winners Facebook Page, which has over 1,400 “Likes.” Notice the difference:
Not a single note of hate speech directed toward the Raiders or their fans. In fact, what Jennifer, Roderick and Renix provide are thoughtful responses to a serious issue.
The difference in tone between “topnotchguy562″ and “vml3301″ is staggering. While the former engages in goading banter, the latter bridges on the inappropriate. It is a microcosm for the exchanges that I have seen on social media. Though I am sure these individuals are not the majority, they are the vocal few that the majority seemingly refuses to silence. Roderick is right: One or two criminals (or in this case, commenters) should not be allowed to “shut things down.” They should not be the sole voices for a fan-base. But they are.
Today, when news broke of the lawsuit, it was more of the same. Again, “One Nation Raider Nation” posted the link on their Facebook page, and though the language is different, the story is the same.
The one fan, Juan, who attempts to be the voice of reason, is seemingly drowned out by the others, specifically by Michael. So I replied to Michael, asking why backing down from a fight is the equivalent of being a p-word. My goal was to call into question the hostility between the two teams and the want to abandon civility. The response would suggest I failed. In less than two minutes after posting, my comment was deleted, and I was blocked by “One Nation Raider Nation”.
And so, what I’ve learned is that I appreciate Tru. I appreciate him for never abandoning civility when my opinion diverges from his own. I appreciate him for not abandoning this website when we are critical of the “Nation” to which he aligns himself. Ultimately, though, I wish those fans like Tru were more prominent. Because when they are silent, the fans that dominant the conversation are single-minded, looking for fights, not good football. But the worst part is they give truth to an unfair stereotype.