There’s an interesting stealth sports merchandise trend going on here in Los Angeles that, until now, has been under the radar for most folks outside of SoCal.
For decades, Raiders gear has been the team of choice in L.A. gang culture, but in the past 2-3 years, local sports team affiliation has changed dramatically for those involved in that type of organized criminal activity.
The Dodgers have now clearly gained most-favored status among Los Angeles gang members.
I live on Venice Beach, where local white, black, asian and Latino gang members aren’t exactly shy about congregating - especially on weekends. In just the past year, I myself have noticed a lot more of those fine folks wearing Dodgers gear, some of it altered to represent a certain gang or group.
As Venice Beach isn’t exactly the cross-section of gang-life in Los Angeles, I didn’t think it was a serious trend until I saw a recent piece about gang-affiliated sports team merchandise on a website run by Marc Ecko called Complex.com.
In a piece called, “Rep Yo Set: The 10 Most Gang-Affiliated Hats in Sports,” Dodger lids are ranked #1, with the Raiders in at #3.
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers
Adopted by: The Crips (L.A.), Gangster Disciples (Chicago), Latin Aspects (various)
Why: The Crips use it for color association. For the GDs, the “D” stands for Disciple. For the Aspects, the “LA” stands for Latin Aspects.
What Complex.com doesn’t note is that in Los Angeles, Dodger gear-wearing gangs is a new trend. That domain used to be dominated by the Raiders, but no more.
Why the change?
With the Raiders gone from L.A., most gang members, who are notoriously young, have no emotional attachment to the team. The city has now gone generations without the Raiders.
Another reason for the surge was the Dodgers’ acquisition of Manny Ramirez.
Ramirez suddenly gave the notoriously faceless Dodgers a personality with local fans. For the first time since I moved here over a decade ago, there was actually some buzz in town about the team.
Matt Kemp has helped to build on that notion, thanks in part to his on-field performance, off-field demeanor/style and his relationship with Rihanna.
But when it comes to popularity with the Latino gangs leading the switch from Raiders to Dodgers, I believe the biggest factor is the relatively inexpensive ticket prices for Dodger games.
In the past few years, there’s been a well-documented rise in criminal violence and mischief in the parking lots outside of Dodger Stadium. That trend was noticeable enough for the Dodgers to completely ban tailgating before and after games this season.
Those problems can be traced in part to the large number of Latino gang members who are well-known to frequent the pavilion seats (bleachers) at Dodger games. (It’s an open secret among Dodger fans.)
In short, the Dodgers have become the cheap entertainment option of choice for many gang members in Los Angeles these days.
The Raiders now represent the older generation of gang members in Los Angeles. And as we all know, “older” gang members - outside of incarceration - isn’t exactly a crowded demographic.
I’m often asked during media interviews how popular the Dodgers are in Los Angeles.
With that in mind, I can honestly say that gang members make up the majority of people I see wearing Dodger hats and gear here in town.