What would Al Davis think of this?
For years, Oakland Raiders fans have prided themselves on being the scariest, baddest fans in the NFL. Turns out they're really easy-going, tender-hearted spirits.
Raider Nation's most loyal supporters believe they've got an "image problem" and they've been working hard to change the misconceptions other fans have about the Silver & Black backers.
The Black Hole Fan Club has taken rather jarring steps to convince people that the perception and reality of being a Raiders fan are completely separate.
"We are tired of being the whipping boy of the Bay Area and people thinking we are a bunch of criminals. We are not," Black Hole Fan Club President Rob Rivera told the San Jose Mercury News.
So what do you do to change public sentiment? The Raiders fanatics have have hired a public relations firm, set up a new website at www.blackholefans.com, and donated money to a struggling religious
This weekend, the fan club launches the "Solidarity Campaign to Black Out Violence," an effort to stop crime and create more goodwill for Silver & Black supporters. Rivera tells the Mercury News that the No. 1 focus is getting the word out that the "Black Hole" is not a bunch of wild criminals and hoodlums, but a charitable, big-hearted group.
The Raiders' most loyal fans celebrate Halloween every home game with a combination of scary masks, painted faces and outrageous chains and spiked outfits. Fans in the "Black Hole" really are the sporting world's closest imitation to the wacky crowd that attends Comic-Con, the nation's largest comic book convention each year in San Diego.
Despite being a better team on the field, the Raiders are still struggling to bring in fans. Oakland is ranked 29th in the NFL with an average home attendance of 59,694. Only the Rams, Bucs and Bengals draw fewer fans on average.
Although the group has good intentions, it understands not everyone who supports the Raiders will be on board.
"There is no sugarcoating here," Rivera told the Mercury News. "There is going to be an element of Raider fans that are going to do the wrong thing, but people need to realize that some of the most visible people in the Raider Nation are the ones who get labeled with this negative connotation. We do want people to know we are sick and tired of hearing the constant negative, almost like an insulting tone, whenever it has anything to do with the Raider Nation, and we are going to do everything we can to let people in and let them know that."
It may take generations to convince most folks that the majority of Raiders fans are small business owners, police officers and law abiding citizens, rather than the troublemakers we see on the news.
But this is a good start.
You can take shots at Raiders fans, but don't deny the greatness of the team theme song.
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