The NFL and the player’s protests have suddenly become the “number one” news story in the nation. Fans in several stadiums booed as players kneeled in protest after President Donald Trump called for the firing of any protesting player resulting in videos of fans burning season tickets popping up all over social media.
We are a nation divided. Perhaps more so than any time since the turbulent 1960’s. Considering the vitriol and divisiveness, perhaps Raider Nation should be thankful for the present and celebrate the past, especially the significant contributions that our team and the Davis family have made in the social justice arena.
For starters, our team made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2002 and this year’s squad is loaded with even more talent. Raider Nation suffered every Sunday for 13 years, but last year’s season and the bright outlook for the 2017 team should provide the fan base with an enormous amount of satisfaction!
Then there’s the storied history of the Raiders; not just the winning, but the firm Raider philosophy of never seeing someone in light of their skin color, but rather for their character and work ethic. Al Davis was way ahead of the curve when it came to race/gender relations in the National Football League.
Davis was the first NFL owner to hire an African-American head coach, Art Shell. Shell was hired by Davis twice; in 1989 and 2006. Davis also hired the first woman chief executive, Amy Trask, to run the business operations of the Raiders and he hired the first Latino head coach in Tom Flores, who led the Raiders to two Super Bowl victories in 1981 and 1983. When Davis became general manager of the Raiders, he was the first executive in the league to actively scout and draft players from America’s traditionally black colleges; players like Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, and Willie Brown.
Thank you to Amy Trask for taking time to share a brief thought on Al Davis’s legacy via her Twitter.
Al hired and fired without regard to race, religion, ethnicity, gender etc. He was ahead of his time and I was a beneficiary of his vision.
— Amy Trask (@AmyTrask) September 28, 2017
Davis also refused to play a preseason game in Mobile, Alabama because of that city’s strict segregationist policies. Also, in 1965 when the AFL was scheduled to hold their all-star game in New Orleans, another racially segregated city, Davis was instrumental in getting the game moved to Houston.
Raymond Chester, a Raider’s great from the 70s had this to say about Davis; “Davis was a pioneer. There was never any racism within the Raiders, we did not see color, and neither did Davis as he built the league.” Davis started working in pro football when white men dominated it. Mr. Davis almost single-handedly changed that. Moreover, his players, coaches, and staff loved him for it. Furthermore, Al’s son, Mark, seems to have inherited his father’s penchant for fairness, recently signing black general manager Reggie McKenzie to an extended contract. Not because he is black but because he is deserving.
Today’s players are protesting injustice in society, but they would be hard-pressed to make the argument that racism exists in the NFL. 70% of all players in the league are black. There are more minority head coaches (7) and more black general managers (8) in 2017 than ever before. Moreover, players on the field show obvious love, honor, and respect for their fellow teammates regardless of skin color.
Certainly, there are still hurdles the league must overcome, such as the number of women in senior, management positions. However, we, as Raider’s fans, should be extremely proud that the organization we love has been so pivotal in providing minorities the respect and recognition they deserve in the National Football League. Indeed worth celebrating.