Denied the usual in-person skills camps and outreach programs, the new team in town finds other ways to join the community
The pandemic shrunk their playbook for in-person involvement, but the Las Vegas Raiders are diagraming new routes to help the hibernating youth sports community and their beleaguered Nevada home.
Since their relocation announcement in 2017, the Raiders have initiated a number of local outreach programs and partnerships to parallel longstanding efforts in Oakland, according to a team spokesman. They have focused primarily on education, health and fitness, volunteerism, civic involvement, and charitable giving.
When they officially became the Las Vegas Raiders in January, owner Mark Davis pledged $500,000 toward eliminating student meal debt in the state. Ambitious plans for personal appearances when coaches and players arrived in Southern Nevada were curtailed with COVID-19’s onset, so more creative efforts have prevailed.
The Raiders hosted a virtual clinic for the Southern Nevada Football Coaches Association. They partnered with USA Football and Intermountain Healthcare on free webinars for local youth coaches in June. Among the topics: practice planning, teaching technique and scheme, and safety. The Raiders cover costs for tackle and flag coaches to complete USA Football certification coursework online and have worked to develop USA Football’s regional presence.
“Since the Raiders announced, they’ve really been fantastic for the community,” says Ben Joffe, National Youth Sports Nevada cofounder and director of operations. “They’ve done a great job in a number of different ways.”
Joffe says he is working with the Raiders to develop digital content to help young athletes train at home and stay active during the pandemic. “Our young athletes who are 6-14 years old are going to gobble that up,” he says.
The Raiders host weekly virtual chats for high school football programs in collaboration with the Clark County and Washoe County school districts. Former Raider Lamarr Houston spoke during the team’s first ELITE (Education, Leadership, Integrity, Teamwork, Equality) chat for Rancho High on August 13.
Twenty-nine varsity athletes and Rancho head football coach Leon Evans participated in the 45-minute Zoom meeting. “It was a great opportunity for our kids to have contact with the Raiders, not just seeing them on TV, but have that personal interaction,” Evans says. “We appreciate the Raiders showing their support for youth sports because that’s where it all starts.”
“We all know that most of our kids aren’t going to get even to the collegiate level, but it’s something to aspire to,” Joffe says. “All of our sports teach different things, different life lessons. With football … all 11 guys on the field are reliant on each other. Strongest link, weakest link — everybody matters on a team. That lesson is really paramount to today’s society, and we’re excited to be a part of the Raiders helping grow that lesson and every other lesson that sports can offer.”
Before training camp began, fullback Alec Ingold discussed personal finances virtually with high school students who are part of UNLV’s Young Executive Scholars Hospitality & Tourism Program. Ingold stressed the importance of managing finances, setting goals, work ethic, and teamwork.
Running back Jalen Richard became a spokesman for the Discovery Children’s Museum, recording a video to support fundraising efforts and share updates about the museum’s Raiders Kids Construction Zone, an interactive replica of Allegiant Stadium.
In addition to their talent and time, the Raiders have been generous with their treasure during the pandemic:
• Davis and the team pledged $1 million to the Nevada COVID-19 Task Force; $25,000 to The Actors Fund during the Mondays Dark livestreamed telethon to support sidelined entertainers; and $10,000 to feed residents and members of Share Village.
• Ingold and teammates Josh Jacobs, Foster Moreau, and Hunter Renfrow issued a challenge on social media to encourage donations for Three Square Food Bank to provide more than 31,000 meals to Las Vegas residents.
• Wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, the Las Vegas Raiders’ first-ever draft pick, launched a commemorative T-shirt for sale with a portion of the proceeds going to Three Square.
• Tackle Trent Brown partnered with CCSD to donate $20,000 to provide teenagers with Chromebooks for remote schooling.
“We’re obviously going through some tough times,” defensive end Maxx Crosby said during the Athletes Doing Good Radiothon fundraiser. “A lot of people are losing jobs, families are struggling, and there’s a lot of sick kids out there. … I feel like being in my position and having this platform, I’d be doing myself an injustice if I didn’t go out in the community and meet people who are really struggling right now. What it is all about at the end of the day is giving back to the people who really need it.”
Like the Vegas Golden Knights, which prioritized community involvement before the first skate was laced, the Raiders are demonstrating what major-league athletes and coaches can and should be before their first game, Joffe says.
“We know that they’re going to be a supporter and help us — all these parents and young athletes — get to the other side of this crisis,” Joffe says. “They’re a key member of our community now. They’re going to be there, and they’ve already proven what they want to be here.”