Fans often look at the Oakland Raiders as a team that’s a bit rough around the edges. When players are accused of crimes or arrested, social media brings in a chorus of comments about how the player must be headed out to Oakland.
This image has persisted for decades, but modern social media just makes it more obvious than ever. Interestingly, the facts don’t in any way support this idea or this image. At least not for the Raiders of the new millennium.
A study was released back in the summer of 2013 dealing with arrests in the NFL. The AFC West as a whole actually ranked as the division that brought in the most arrests since 2000. If asked, many casual fans would have probably laughed and said that of course it did, with the Raiders contributing to those numbers.
Actually, the Raiders had the fewest arrests out of any team in the AFC West. The Chargers had 25, the Chiefs had 27 and the Broncos led the way with 35. The Raiders only had 19. That puts them pretty close to the middle of the NFL.
This is all very relevant right now because the Raiders are still working to shake their negative image.
When Greg Hardy was released by the Panthers because of domestic violence charges that were eventually dropped, social media blew up, just like it always does, with people quickly linking Hardy to the Raiders.
Not all of the talk regarding Hardy and the Raiders has been because of the reputation Oakland has. Hardy is also a terrific pass rusher, one of the best in the game. Oakland desperately needs talented players like him, so his skill set would be a great fit.
Still, don’t think the rumored link with Oakland is just based on Hardy’s fit in the Raiders’ defense. It’s also because people generally assume the Raiders will sign players with a checkered background. It’s an unfair image, as the stats show, but it persists year after year.
Recently, Mark Davis put out a statement saying the team isn’t looking to sign Hardy. He didn’t rule out ever signing him, but he said the Raiders were not agent Drew Rosenhaus’ anonymous team. He called the rumors false repeatedly and stressed that Oakland wasn’t interested.
Even so, popular speculation is that the anonymous team may be Oakland—but that they’re just too nervous to release it because of the potential backlash from fans.
There’s also the situation with the NFL — no one knows at this point how long Hardy may be suspended, if at all. If the Raiders—or any other team—said they were talking to Hardy, they might get a lot of bad publicity for it and then not even end up signing him. They’d need to at least know he’d be on the field to take that risk.
The Raiders may not deserve their rough image, and Mark Davis is doing everything he can to get rid of it, but it seems to be what they’re stuck with for now. If they do end up signing Hardy, it will only make it that much harder to wash away.