Oakland Raiders Logo and Colors Have a Rich and Interesting History

Justin Smith – Jul 19, 2012

Even at their inception the Oakland Raiders were embroiled in controversy. They weren’t even supposed to exist, but in 1961 the Minneapolis-St. Paul franchise in the AFL bolted to become the Minnesota Vikings, and the AFL badly needed a replacement. 

Oakland was the logical choice; they had no interest in a football team, no owner’s group, no viable playing venue and a fan base already dedicated to a team across the Bay in the San Francisco 49ers. Nonetheless, influential Los Angeles–soon to become San Diego-Chargers owner Barron Hilton threatened to pull his team from the league unless a second team was added to the West Coast. The board acquiesced and the Oakland franchise was born. An owners group, including the infamous Chet Soda, was formed and the team inherited the Minneapolis draft picks.

It was time to start football in the east bay.

Their very first “name the team” contest, held by the Oakland Tribune resulted in the moniker the Oakland Señors. Although somewhat appropriate due to Oakland's large Hispanic community, the team became a local laughingstock as everyone knew Soda was renowned for calling his acquaintances Señor and extrapolated that to mean the contest was clearly fixed. Not a good start for a fledgling franchise.  

Trying to get a mostly ignored franchise off the ground in a new league in a sport that hadn’t quite reached the hearts and minds of a country yet, the team owners scrapped the Señors handle and instead changed the name a mere nine days later to the third placed name in the contest: the Oakland Raiders. 

We’re all glad they did. Somehow Señor Nation doesn’t have the same ominous intensity of Raider Nation, although plenty of Señors – and Señoritas – are part its heart & soul.

At the time the Raiders colour scheme was, frankly, distasteful. At least to Raider fans now it would be. It was far too close to that of their future rival Steelers in that it was black & gold and not yet the sleek, sexy, and smooth silver & black attack that has come to symbolize the franchise.  Remember this was still 1960; three years before a young, fiery scrapper from Brooklyn would arrive and change the course and future of the franchise forever.

The owner’s group also created a logo for their newly minted Raiders; a pirate wearing a football helmet. Though the team’s official logo, it did not appear on the first helmets worn by the team. Those helmets were a simple black with a white stripe to go with their black & gold uniforms; it was, frankly, a team dressed in garb completely un-Raider like and unrecognizable from today’s instantly identified and iconic Raider silver & black Autmn wind persona.

/articleimages/olderlogo.jpgThe team played poorly their first few years, and a young, intelligent and talented coach named Al Davis was hired to lead the team out of the mire as both coach and GM. Not content to make his mark solely on the field, Davis saw the color scheme, logo, and empty seats and thought “something’s gotta give.”

Davis scrapped the black & gold colour scheme for a sleeker, sexier silver & black look, changed the helmets to silver and spiced up the logo - and put it on the helmets - adding the word “Raiders” to the top and crossed swords in behind the likeness of actor Randolph Scott, the man whom the Raider pirate is modeled after and an actor famous for his many star turns in Western films in the 1950’s.  

Ironically, Scott never played a pirate in his acting career but has nonetheless became one of the most famous pirates in history by proxy of being the symbol of one of the most popular sports franchises in the world.

Scott’s image has adorned Raider helmets and various forms of merchandise for almost 50 years and has undergone only slight modifications since its inception; the background was changed from silver to black in 1964. That's it. Other than that, it's too good to change.  

Davis’ overhaul was comprehensive; he created the beloved home black/silver pant combo and the away whites with the silver numbers. The Raiders uniforms have undergone variations on design and font over the years, but the color scheme, logo, and design essentially remain the same as they were when created almost 50 years ago, a testament to the forward thinking, vision, and utter immersivenss of Al Davis as it pertained to his Raiders.

He created a culture and image for his franchise that to this day are still some of the most recognizable in all of sport.  

Although it will probably go unnoticed by most, please remember that 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the year that Al Davis joined the Raiders, and as such, the 50th anniversary of when the Raiders truly became the Raiders. 

Prior to that they were some team in Oakland calling themselves the Raiders and wearing black & gold with no logo and a pirate without a place. Al Davis changed all that; he gave them direction, purpose, identity and they still look as good as the day they were born. 

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