On September 1, about “one thousand” Oakland Raiders fans rendezvoused at the Handlery Hotel in Mission Valley for the Raiders Fan Convention (RFC). Many of the black-and-silver adorned fans were more than welcoming to the ex-Chargers fans while others spoke about their new Las Vegas home.
“My daughter was a big-time fanatic of the Chargers and now she’s with us,” said Hector Ruiz from Spring Valley. Ruiz has been a Raiders fan since 1969 and at around 3 pm, he won a Raiders logoed zarape via a raffle contest. “All of the guys that I know dropped the Chargers jerseys and came to Raider Nation because of their move to Las Vegas.”
Mauricio Salazar from Imperial Beach agrees.
“We picked up a lot more fans moving to Las Vegas,” he said, “I predict every home game is going to be a sell out because the visiting teams are bringing fans over that will say “Let’s go to Vegas.”
Salazar’s been a Raiders fan since he was ten years old and the then Los Angeles Raiders won the Superbowl.
“I followed my team to three cities and I’m still a Raiders fan,” he said, “plus it’s closer than Oakland.”
On March of 2017, team owner Mark Davis spoke about the three-time Super Bowl champion team’s relocation. “The Raiders were born in Oakland, and Oakland will always be part of our DNA,” he said. “We know that some fans will be disappointed and even angry, but we hope that they do not direct that frustration to the players, coaches and staff.
“We plan to play at the Coliseum in 2017 and 2018 and hope to stay there as the Oakland Raiders until the new stadium opens.”
Emerson Joe from North Park was one of the dozen-or-so vendors selling Raiders merch at the convention.
“I don’t like them moving to Las Vegas,” he said, “but I’m still going to ride with the Raiders.”
Joe had a eight-foot table stacked with $25 tees that read “Fuck Your Team” (which is also the name of his Raiders fan crew) and on the back read “Just win, baby,” a quote from the late Al Davis, former team owner.
Some of Joe’s customers were “Super Charger fans” not too long ago.
“The Chargers fans that come to our Raider Nation side are embarrassed,” Joe said, “and kinda whisper [their support] under their breath. But we gotta welcome them now because at least they aren’t wearing that baby blue and yellow no more."
Joe’s table had women shorts for $25; headbands for $10; and necklaces ranging from $40 to $80 depending on the sizes.
Raider Storm was dressed in a shiny black leather-looking bodysuit, white contact lenses, platinum-colored hair — and two necklaces: one pendant was a smaller four-inch side profile of a football helmet and the other measured about 12” tall and had the classic Raiders logo. Storm’s a season ticket holder from Oceanside and used to play women’s tackle football with San Diego Surge. “[Our coach] was a diehard Chargers fan who had a box for years,” she said, “and she always gave us Raiders fans hell, and because the Chargers left, she was so disappointed and jumped ship — now she’s a Raiders fan.”
“If they wanna jump ship, our ship ain't sinking,” Joe said. “From my homies, only about 20 percent of the Chargers fans that I knew jumped to the Raiders side.”
“The Chargers fans are loyal to a certain point and then they give up,” Salazar said. “They now say “I’m just a football fan and no longer a Chargers fan,” …. and I say 'They’re fans of the city and not of the team.'”
Another fan listening in said that many of his Chargers friends dropped off because of the Kaepernick drama.
Julian from National City has a Raider Nation tattoo on his right shoulder.
“I grew up hating the San Diego Chargers,” he said, “but they belong in San Diego. With the hatred and the competition between our two teams, it was so much fun. I can’t go to the stadium anymore (via Uber) and have a tailgate party like when our Raiders played against the Chargers at Qualcomm. Now I gotta plan the whole day just to go up to LA: I gotta take a day off, get a hotel and I’m gonna go drink …. and it’s not even a rivalry anymore so it changes everything.”
Throughout the event, the fans were entertained by live music performed by Dem Raider Boyz, 4Dub, and a live DJ.
Lincoln Kennedy, former offensive-tackle for the Raiders, and Morse High School alumni, was present autographing footballs and T-shirts.
Later that day, I saw Ruiz again test-fitting his new zarape over his Jon Gruden/Chucky t-shirt.
Gruden lead the Raiders to the AFC Championship in 2000 where they lost to the Ravens (who later won the Superbowl for that season); then in 2003, Gruden lead the Tampa Bay Bucs to play against his former Raiders team for Super Bowl XXXVII at Qualcomm Stadium — the Bucs won.
The Black Hole shindig ended inside the venue at about 4:30 p.m., but the fans continued the party outside by the pool, at the bar and in the parking lot. By the entrance, there were four customized vehicles and two motorcycles decked in Raider Nation styled paint, chrome and loud booming stereo systems. Some fans sat on their their lowered tailgates and others took photos next to the customized rides. A female fan was posing on a motorcycle with an airbrush design of a Chargers’ gravesite headstone.
Many of the San Diego-based Raiders fans are prepping for the next RFC on October 20 at the Mandalay Bay (in Las Vegas). “It’s bridging the gap to those that are in Oakland that are saddened by the team leaving and those that are ecstatic in Las Vegas because of the move,” RFC co-founder Mike Sommers said. “Two completely different moods and one team to unify under. I try to explain a lot of times that: “Who was upset when the Raiders had a Super Bowl in LA? Nobody.””