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Athletic Supporters

Gangs have discovered that wearing sports teams' clothing is a low-profile way to represent their own colors.

April 01, 2003  |  by Al Valdez

Hispanic gang members may wear this St. Louis Rams jersey with “13” on it to signify an affiliation with the Mexican mafia.

Professional and college teams' sportswear has become extremely popular with some gangs. Members wear sweatshirts or ballcaps to signify their gang. There are several reasons why gangs do this, and they're not all obvious.

Of course, clothing style cannot solely be used as evidence of gang membership. And some gang members might simply be sports fans showing their team spirit. But if you notice someone on gang turf in Los Angeles wearing a University of North Carolina sweatshirt, it might be worth taking a second look.

A gang may choose to associate itself with a professional or college sports team simply based on the team's colors. The Gangster Disciples have affiliated themselves with the universities of Georgetown and Duke because their school colors are black and blue. The red and black color combination of the Chicago Bulls is popular with the Latin Counts, Black P Stone Nation, and the Vice Lords. All are Midwestern-based street gangs that identify with those colors.

The Kansas City Star newspaper recently reported that the street gang called "Simon City Royals" has adopted the Kansas City Royals' new team colors to represent their gang. The Royals updated their uniforms by adding the color black to the traditional blue and white. The Simon City Royals' colors had been blue and black, but the street gang has now adopted the baseball team's new color scheme. The Simon City Royals are located mostly in Chicago, with sets in Milwaukee and Mississippi. This gang has been described as a "drug-dealing, gun peddling, white supremacist gang." The gang has nothing to do with the Kansas City Royals except for the similarity of their names and colors.

A gang may also adopt a team's insignia, logo, or name to represent the gang. For example, the L.A. Kings hockey team baseball caps are popular with the Latin Kings because the word "Kings" appears on the cap. The People Nation gangs identify with the Dallas Cowboys' team symbol, the five-point star, since it is also a common symbol of People Nation gangs.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas is abbreviated as "UNLV." Apparel from this team has been used to represent the Vice Lord Nation, another Midwest-based street gang, because when read backwards, UNLV looks like the initials for the Vice Lord Nation.

Keeping Up Appearances

Symbols and numbers on clothing could be subtle hints of a person’s gang affiliation.

Beyond similar symbols or colors already shared by a team and a gang, gang members have other reasons for actively adopting the use of sports teams' clothing. I have spoken to gang investigators across the country and several reasons become readily apparent.

The most common reason, according to gang investigators, is to use a college or pro team's color scheme or emblems as a way to disguise gang affiliation or membership. Nationally, some gangs have gone "low pro," or low profile. One way they do this is by wearing non-traditional gang attire to blend in with the crowd.

Gang members across the country are well aware of the importance of wearing the appropriate colors and clothing. They are the easily recognizable street uniforms of gang members. Sports apparel is a way to disguise gang attire because it is also a popular form of dress for team fans. But if gang members in this disguise are easily recognizable to savvy gang members, they should certainly be recognizable to savvy police officers.

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