Stop me if you've seen that word from me before, but...
Saying “We have a tremendous, passionate fan base in Mexico and we know the atmosphere on game day will be outstanding,” Roger Goodell and the NFL announced Friday a return to Mexico. On November 21, the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans will play the first-ever Monday night game outside of the United States.
The game brings together one of the most storied franchises and its newest. Plus it is a match-up of two teams with strong Hispanic fan bases.
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) February 5, 2016
Back in 2013, we spoke with the Texans' Digital Media Director Eric SanInocencio about, among other things, the team's outreach to Hispanic fans. “We’ve recently started a video segment called Adelante los Texans,” said SanInocencio at that time. “We also do Spanish-themed shows, including Puntos Extra while also airing the Primero y Diez show that is featured on Telemundo here in Houston.”
The proximity of Houston to Mexico City (2 hour, 15-minute flight) provides great appeal for the Texans organization. Voice of the Texans Marc Vandermeer expressed his excitement for the game today on the team's podcast, “I think it's a real plus. The Texans have made some inroads in Mexico. It'll be really interesting to see what the fan turnout is like.”
That fan turnout is one that will be a focal point leading up to the game. The Dallas Cowboys have perhaps the strongest fan base in the NFL with regard to Mexico. But, years and years of sub-par teams and no playoffs could have forced Mexican fans to turn allegiances elsewhere.
Although similar in mediocrity of late like the Cowboys, the Oakland Raiders have the potential to build on the diversity long associated with the organization. Under legendary owner Al Davis, the Raiders were the “Rooney Rule” before there was such a thing.
Davis' hiring of Tom Flores as the first Hispanic NFL head coach was one of many ground-breaking moves by the Raiders. Amy Trask (first female CEO in the league), Art Shell (first African-American head coach), in addition to Flores (who won a Super Bowl with Latino quarterback Jim Plunkett), were moves that showed how forward-thinking Davis and the organization were to diversity. Moves that resonated with Hispanic Raiders fans like me.
The Raiders long history has allowed them to become a global brand. “The Raiders are truly a global brand and we look forward to visiting the loyal and passionate members of the Raider Nation in Mexico,” owner Mark Davis said in an NFL press release.
After multiple visits to London in recent years by the NFL, it's about time the league returns to a constantly growing, and loyal fan base south of the border. They love their fútbol, but they love their football too.