Raiders Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks signs autographs at the Atlanta Raider Boosetr Club's Raiders Rally. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
It has become widely accepted that the Raider Nation is global. That assertion was evident during the Oakland Raiders road trip this past weekend. Raiders Legends and fans came together at several events in downtown Atlanta.
The Atlanta Raider Booster Club held their inaugural Raiders Rally. George Atkinson, Kenny King, Henry Lawrence, and Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks signed autographs while club president and event organizer Clint Gharib handed out door prizes.
"Any fan in a visiting town, when the Raiders come, you feel like your town is the Raiders town. We don't feel like this is a road game," Gharib said. "Wherever you go in the world, I travel all over the Caribbean and all over Europe and I always run into Raiders fans, everywhere I go. Every country I've been, every stop I've made, I've run into a Raider fan somewhere."
The event continued with a Q&A as Hendricks, King and Lawrence answered questions from the audience. A party was also held Saturday evening.
Elsewhere downtown, the Steering Committee for the Oakland Raiders Booster Clubs (SCORBC) held their annual road trip dinner/dance. Fans from all over the country attended the event which featured several special guests. Former wide receiver Morris Bradshaw helped emcee the festivities while former running back Frank Hawkins, former wide receiver Mike Siani, former tight end Derrick Ramsey, Hall of Famer Willie Brown and Olympic gold medal sprinter, former Cincinnati Bengal-turned Raiders fan Dr. Tommie Smith entertained the guests with stories, anecdotes and jokes.
Left to right: Morris Bradshaw, Frank Hawkins, Dr. Tommie Smith, Willie Brown and Mike Siani. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
"This is great; it's unbelievable. We usually say you sort of meet your twin from the other part of the United States with how many Raiders fans there are," said SCORBC's Dave Laughlin said. "Just some camaraderie, renew acquaintances we haven't seen in a year, and make some new ones. We have a lot of new people here [for the] first time on the away trip."
Smith, Ramsey, Siani and Hawkins had the opportunity to speak to more than 250 guests about the mystique of the Raiders and the collective might of the Raider Nation.
"It's always so good to come back and be around family," Ramsey said. "I am delighted to be here and share this evening with you. I'm delighted that the Raiders still have the support that we have today. We're only good because you guys have always supported us and for that I am eternally grateful."
Siani talked of the great players he shared the locker room with and explained that the combination of the organization, the assembled roster and the fan base is what has made the Silver and Black successful over the years. "The list of names is just incredible. And then you had a Hall of Fame coach in John Madden," Siani said. "You had a Hall of Fame owner in Al Davis and a great organization and great fans."
Brown acknowledged the uncompromising support the Raiders have no matter where they go. "It's great to have fans all over the world. We're one nation. One nation, Raider Nation," Brown said. "We're everywhere. When we go to different cities and we pull up in the bus the night before a game, you see all the fans sitting there waiting until we get there and how excited they are."
Hawkins, in addition to telling some colorful stories, echoed his brethren's sentiments. "I love the game, but I love the camaraderie. It's just like this Raider family," Hawkins said. "We love the Raiders, but we love each other and that's what it's all about - the Raider family, the Raider Nation."
Prior to game time Sunday, hundreds of Raiders fans descended upon Centennial Olympic Park for a pep rally. Fans gathered to pool their energy for the Raiders at Falcons game at the Georgia Dome.
Throughout the game, the Silver and Black was evident throughout the crowd, and the collective voice of the Raider Nation was heard loud and clear.