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Real fans wear black: An introduction to Raider Nation

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Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

In the minds of many, the mere mention of “Raider Nation” conjures images of face paint, elaborate costumes and rowdiness. Ask actual fans to define Raider Nation, however, and they’ll come up with a much different set of characteristics—namely family, attitude and dedication. The Raiders have developed one of the most committed and wide-reaching fanbases in professional sports, a sect only expected to grow when the team arrives in Las Vegas for the 2020 season.

The advent of Raider Nation can be traced back to the Raiders’ first relocation, when the organization moved from Oakland to LA in 1982. The change in location almost immediately resulted in the Raiders establishing a stronghold along the entire Californian coast, before expanding even farther than anyone anticipated.

The Raiders’ national brand boomed when the team became unintentionally associated with West Coast gangsta rap of the late 1980s and early ’90s. Seminal LA group N.W.A. is credited for much of the movement, with members like Ice Cube and Eazy-E regularly sporting Raiders’ merchandise in music videos and during media appearances. Their image only added to the Raiders’ outlaw reputation, honed a couple decades earlier when renegade owner Al Davis took control of the team. Davis was outspoken and brash, endearing himself to Raiders’ followers and aggravating opposing fanbases.

Davis fostered a tight-knit feel for the organization, pledging, “Once a Raider, always a Raider,” and the fanbase followed suit. The owner was also involved in several high-profile lawsuits with the NFL, cited as the origin of the Raiders’ us-against-the-world mentality.

Given the NFL’s blackballing treatment of Las Vegas over the years, this city feels like the perfect place for a new Raiders era to begin. Raider Nation is coming, so here are some tips to prepare.

Get the gear

No, official Las Vegas Raiders merchandise is not currently available. The NFL won’t permit the name to be printed on any materials until the relocation in 2020. Plain Raiders gear is increasingly easy to find in the Valley, though. The franchise has opened three officially-licensed stores—at Town Square, the

Galleria at Sunset and Fashion Show Mall.

Know the sayings

“Just win, baby,” is the Raiders’ most poplar rallying cry, but it’s far from the late Al Davis’ only nugget of wisdom to stand the test of time. Other still-circulating Davis-isms include: “We don’t take what the defense gives us; we take whatever the hell we want,” and, “You don’t adjust, you just dominate.”

Visit the local Raiders bar

Before long, virtually every sports bar in the Valley will be a Raiders’ bar of some sort, but Legends Sports Bar & Grill will always have the distinction as one of the originals. The headquarters of the local Raiders’ fan club at 5866 Boulder Highway draws big crowds decked out in silver and black on game days.

Attend the watch parties

The Raiders have teamed up with Fox 5 to throw an official watch party for every game at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center behind the D, and preseason tilts have already drawn thousands of fans. All NFL games will be shown at the venue during the regular season. Entry is free and open to anyone at least 21 years old.

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