Raiders

Raiders unified in reaction to Trump's comments: 'Have to do something'

Raiders unified in reaction to Trump's comments: 'Have to do something'

LANDOVER, Md. – The Raiders planned to skip Sunday night’s national anthem all together. They were going to remain in the locker room until kickoff, as several teams across the league did in response to President Donald Trump’s inflammatory comments about NFL players.

The schedule didn’t permit that. Kickoff and the national anthem was too close together. So the Raiders were on the sideline, and what they did was far more powerful.

Most of the team sat during the anthem, arm and arm together. Raiders coaches and several players stood with arms linked. Others took a knee. A few guys stood alone.

No Raider had a smile. The image was broadcast to a national television audience. A movement popularized by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to shed light on racial injustice and police brutality against minorities took another turn this weekend, after Trump said Friday night that any NFL player not standing during the national anthem should be fired. He called them sons of bitches.

Players heard what was said. They took it to heart.

The Raiders had a grand platform on Sunday Night Football. They took advantage of it.

“It hit a lot of guys. A lot of guys felt it on a personal level,” left guard Kelechi Osemele said. “They felt that, as role models, they needed to do something to show a sign of unity. Our country was built on equality and freedom and us having rights as human beings. We’re athletes, but we’re humans first. There were some disrespectful comments, and the guys felt like they had a duty to do something, given the stage we have as athletes. You have to do something. We talked about it, and we wanted to be together and show that freedom of speech still matters.”

Owner Mark Davis approved of his team’s reaction. He prefers players don’t protest in a Raiders uniform, but his stance changed this weekend.

“I can no longer ask our team to not say something while they are in a Raider uniform,” Davis said in an interview with ESPN. “The only thing I can ask them to do is do it with class. Do it with pride. Not only do we have to tell people there is something wrong, we have to come up with answers. That’s the challenge in front of us as Americans and human beings.”

Every Raider interviewed about this topic emphasized that their decision to sit or kneel wasn’t meant to disrespect the military, police or the American flag. It was a direct response to Trump’s comments. The Raiders felt they had to respond. Outside of Marshawn Lynch, who always sits for the anthem, this won’t be a weekly thing.

The Raiders made their point and want to move on.

“Stuff is getting out of hand,” left tackle Donald Penn said. “I don’t really want to talk about it or give him more of my time. We have disasters going on in Florida and Puerto Rico, and he’s worried about us doing a silent, peaceful protest? When the people of Charlottesville did their thing, he didn’t call them sons of bitches or assholes.

“We were all on the same page. I wish I didn’t have to do anything like that. I’ve been standing for the anthem all the time, but when you get called out, you take it personally. You have to do something.”

Former Raiders interim head coach, 49ers assistant Tony Sparano dies

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Former Raiders interim head coach, 49ers assistant Tony Sparano dies

Former Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano died unexpectedly on Sunday morning. He was 56.

The Minnesota Vikings announced his passing, though an exact cause of death is unknown.

He was the Vikings offensive line coach, a position he held since 2016. Sparano had been an NFL coach for nearly two decades, with stints in Oakland and San Francisco. He was also Miami's head coach from 2008-11.

He was hired to run the Raiders offensive line in 2013, and was promoted to interim head coach after Dennis Allen was fired four games into the 2014 campaign.

Sparano showed well in that role, kept the team playing hard during a difficult 3-13 season and nearly had the interim tag removed. He was a finalist for 2015 head coaching job, though Jack Del Rio ultimately got the job.

He left the organization then, and spent the 2015 season as 49ers tight ends coach. He ended up in Minnesota after that.

Sparano helped the Raiders finished 2014 with a three wins over their final six games, which started an upward trend that carried through 2016. He also remained patient with then-rookie starter Derek Carr.

Left tackle Donald Penn joined the Raiders in 2014, and experienced a career renaissance that season under Sparano.

The Raiders organization will issue a statement later Sunday.

The 49ers paid respects to the longtime NFL coach.

“The 49ers organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Tony Sparano,” the 49ers said in a statement. “We share our heartfelt condolences with the Sparano family and the Minnesota Vikings.”

Sparano is survived by his wife Jeanette, their three children and four grandchildren.

Jon Gruden gets Raiders fans ready for training camp with party

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Jon Gruden gets Raiders fans ready for training camp with party

To celebrate his return to the sideline, Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden threw a party for fans on Friday at Ricky's Sports Theatre and Grill in San Leandro.  

Raider Nation showed up in droves. 

In all, over 500 fans showed up, according to a Ricky's spokesperson.

"We are honored to be a part of the love story between Jon Gruden and this fan base," the spokesperson said. "It's incredibly special. And the significance of this event, at this time, is not lost on us."

The Raiders, Gruden, and Ricky's all collaborated on the event, which came together because of Gruden's relationship with Ricky's owners, Ricky and Tina Ricardo. Gruden paid for the catering and entertainment himself, according to the spokesperson. 

Plenty of Raiders alumni attended, including Cliff Branch and Lester Hayes, according to ESPN's Paul Gutierrez. Branch even took the mic and made a guarantee. 

Gruden broke in as an NFL head coach with the Raiders in 1998, and coached Oakland for four seasons. It was in Oakland where Gruden was first given the nickname "Chucky," after the murderous puppet in the Child's Play film franchise. Gruden paid tribute to those roots at Ricky's with a... creative autograph signing. 

Raiders training camp begins on July 27. Whether or not the team will be joined by its best defensive player remains to be seen. 

Star defensive end Khalil Mack skipped the team's mandatory minicamp in June in pursuit of a new contract. Gruden told fans on Friday that the team will "find a way" to bring Mack back.