Football is about more than football. It’s more than the winning seasons, playoff berths, and Lombardi trophies. It’s more than training camp, preseason, and home games. Football is about letting people be themselves and celebrating it every step of the way.
The Las Vegas Raiders are one of the few NFL teams who have prided themselves on individuality since the beginning. The franchise is known league-wide for its push for players to be themselves. The Raiders and their front office have always been one of the most diverse and supportive teams in the NFL. Let’s look at some of the trailblazing members of the Raiders organization.
We’ll start with arguably the most well-known name on this list, Tom Flores. Flores was the first Latino quarterback in the NFL, who played for none other than the Oakland Raiders. Flores was the first-ever starting quarterback for the Raiders. He played for the Raiders for five seasons before becoming a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.
If that wasn’t enough, Flores was also the first Latino Head Coach in the NFL. He coached for the Raiders as a part of John Madden’s coaching staff before becoming Head Coach after Madden’s retirement. Flores was also the first minority coach ever to win a Super Bowl. He lead the Raiders to two of their three Super Bowl titles with victories over Philadelphia and Washington.
Flores opened doors for players and coaches alike as he never backed down during his career or after. Long overdue, Tom Flores became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 8, 2021, as one of the most idolized Raiders members in history.
Jim Plunkett was the first Latino Super Bowl MVP in NFL history. Jim Plunkett played as a member of the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders. Plunkett was with the team from 1978 to 1986. He was a member of two Super Bowl teams for the Raiders, coached by Tom Flores. The 1980 ended with a Raiders victory over the Eagles and Plunkett being crowned Super Bowl MVP. Like Flores, Plunkett is a highly respected Raiders legend, admired to this day and beyond.
Amy Trask is one of the most admired women in sports. She opened doors for women where there were thought only to be walls. Trask was given the nickname “Princess of Darkness” by Raider Nation as a symbol of high admiration. Trask, the former Chief Executive of the Oakland Raiders, was the first female CEO in NFL history. She served as CEO from 1997 to 2013. Trask is still a loving part of the Silver and Black family as she can be seen interacting with Raider fans as often as possible and sending her love to the Raiders each season.
The Raiders, along with hiring the league’s first Latino Head Coach, also brought on the first African American Head Coach in the modern era. Art Shell served as Head Coach of the Raiders twice, once from 1989 to 1994, and again from 2006-2007. While coaching the Raiders, Shell received the AFC Coach of the Year award in 1990. That year, the Raiders lost to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Shell is still highly celebrated and remembered for opening doors for African American coaches all around the league. Shell was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989. Without his leadership, it is hard to say where the league would be now.
Kelsey Martinez is yet another female trailblazer that the Raiders have employed. Martinez served as the NFL’s first female strength and conditioning coach. She worked with the team from 2018 to 2019. During her time with the team, Kelsey showed young women everywhere there is a place for them in football. Whether that is on the field or in the weight room, hard work pays off.
In June of 2021, Carl Nassib became the first active gay player in NFL history when he came out on Instagram. Nassib was met with tremendous support from Raider Nation and football fans everywhere. Since coming out, Nassib says he feels a weight lifted off his shoulders. Nassib also says he has only received “love and support” from his teammates, a welcome relief for the defensive end. He has shown children and young adults everywhere how important it is to be themselves when they are ready. Nassib will be known and talked about for years to come for this monumental step.
The Las Vegas Raiders have employed trailblazers since the birth of the franchise in 1960. And if we know one thing, it’s that the Raiders aren’t done. They will encourage their players and staff to be themselves, stand up for others, and take the road less traveled. We will continue to see Raiders breaking barriers and molding the definition of football.
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