On April 5th, 1960, Oakland’s new American Football League franchise – the team we now know as the Raiders – announced that they had chosen a nickname. To much surprise and outrage the team unveiled they would be called the Senors. Evidently the team didn’t care or know that the plural form for Señor is Señores. That’s just one of the many reasons why they chose a bad nickname.
The nickname was chosen in a two-week “Name Your Football Team” contest conducted by the Oakland Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Oakland Tribune. Over 10,000 entries were submitted, but only seven people suggested that the team be nicknamed the Senors.
Helen Davis (no relation to Al Davis) submitted the winning statement that explained why the team should be called the Senors. She was awarded a trip to Acapulco, Mexico, for these words:
“Senors symbolizes the history, strength, and solidarity of Old World California. The name personifies the original fighting spirit and characteristics of the first settlers of California”, wrote Miss Davis.
The general public didn’t have the same sentiments towards the nickname as Davis. The Oakland Tribune was flooded with complaints. There was even a petition filed in the Superior Court of California (County of Alameda) that asked for the nickname to be changed, and the Oakland City Council voted 4-1 to formally object the name.
About a week later (April 14th) the team responded to the public’s complaints and officially changed their nickname to the Raiders. It was a nickname that 26 people originally suggested in the naming contest.
The team handed out prizes to all of those who had submitted the Raiders moniker in the naming contest; which included giving away another trip to Acapulco. Kendrick Martin was the winner of the second Mexico trip. His winning words were,”because our team and its supporters must be fired and inspired by a fighting name. Raiders implies early sustained offense, carrying the fight to the opponents”.
What’s in a name?
The team originally chose the Senors nickname from this group of finalists: Admirals, Clippers, Coasters, Diablos, Dolphins, Dons, Gauchos, Grandees, Jets, Knights, Lakers, Metros, Missiles, Nuggets, Redwoods, Seawolves, Senors, and Sequoias.
There was some interest in the Diablos nickname, but the team didn’t want to be “known as devils”. The nickname Dons was also given some serious thought, but the Bay Area already had a team with that nickname; the University of San Francisco Dons. Note that the Raiders nickname wasn’t one of the original finalists.
The Oakland Tribune also printed some of the bad and/or most comical nickname entries. All of which might have still been better than the Senors – well not all of them. Here is a list of those names: 59ers, Aristocrats, Ants, Barnacles, Chipmunks, Credit Cards (like the Chargers), Dnalkao (Oakland spelled backwards), Don Juans, Dummies, Gnu, Johnny-Come-Lately, Litterbugs, Nutcrackers, Oakland Eleven, Oakland Football Players, Oaken Buckets, Oaktermites, Oakley-Doakleys, Prune Pickers, Pumpkin Heads, Quercus Agrifolia, Sourdoughs, Tax Boosters, and Yardbirds.
There were also some people who tried to create a nickname off of the general manager’s surname (Soda). Those names were: Bicarbonates, Soda Crackers, Soda Pops, Soda Springers, and lastly Soda’s Jerks.
There were five people on the naming committee for the Oakland franchise: Chet Soda; Geo Jacopetti, Oakland Stadium committee chairman; Harold Price, Oakland Junior Chamber of Commerce president; Dan Marovich, councilman; and Francis Dunn, chairman of the Alameda County Supervisors.
It has been written in a few books that the original contest was “rigged” by Soda. But he was on the record as saying he favored the nickname the Mavericks. Eddie Erdelatz, the team’s first head coach, favored the nickname the Saints.
How different would the atmosphere be at O.co (Oakland) Coliseum if the fans were rooting for the Oakland Saints? The Raiders nickname helped give the Oakland team and professional football the identity it needed. A renegade franchise with a nickname to match.
Undefined. (1960, April 5). Grid Team Named ‘Oakland Senors’. Oakland Tribune, pp. 1, 76. Retrieved September 19th, 2013, from NewspaperARCHIVE.
Haywood, Ray. (1960, April 6). Second-Guessing Starts on Senors. Oakland Tribune, pp. 102. 105. Retrieved September 19th, 2013, from NewspaperARCHIVE.
Eberl, George. (1960, April 7). Acapulco Calls Homeless Senors. Hayward Daily Review, pp. 36. Retrieved September 19th, 2013, from NewspaperARCHIVE.
Haywood, Ray. (1960, April 7). But Senor, is A Change Good? Oakland Tribune, pp. 112, 114. Retrieved September 19th, 2013, from NewspaperARCHIVE.
Undefined. (1960, April 14). Now It’s Hi, Raiders! (Bye, Senors). Oakland Tribune, pp. 2. Retrieved September 19th, 2013, from NewspaperARCHIVE.
Haywood, Ray. (1960, April 15). Raiders Hit-Even With “Senors” Winner. Oakland Tribune, pp. 90, 92. Retrieved September 19th, 2013, from NewspaperARCHIVE.