A man dressed in a black t-shirt with John Madden's silhouette in white painted on it, and wearing a hat with the words "Oakland forever" looks at the camera and gives a thumbs up.
Greg "Griz" Jones outside the Coliseum in 2022. Credit: Courtesy of Greg Jones via Facebook

Oakland plans to honor a legendary Raiders fan by putting his name on a street next to the stadium that once housed his beloved team. 

On Tuesday, the Oakland City Council will vote on renaming 66th Avenue and Coliseum Way as “Godfather Griz Jones Way,” using the nickname bestowed on Gregory Jones, who passed away last year. The item is on the consent agenda, which means it will probably be approved along with other items without discussion. Oakland councilmembers sometimes rename streets after activists and artists who left their mark on the city, such as rapper Tupac Shakur, who got his own street name in May.

Jones, who died last year at 52, was a major fan of the Raiders football team, which last played in Oakland from 1995 to 2019. Widely known as “The Godfather” of the so-called Raider Nation, Jones organized regular tailgates on 66th Avenue before games. After the Raiders decided to relocate to Las Vegas, Jones and other fans successfully lobbied city officials to sue the team and the NFL to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue and public funds invested in the Oakland Coliseum. The lawsuit, which accused the NFL of antitrust violations, was dismissed, and an appeal failed to advance

Jones also championed the city’s plan to build a new baseball stadium at Howard Terminal for the Athletics. 

Those who knew Jones best said he was also deeply committed to helping Oaklanders through food and clothing drives. Jones founded an organization called M.O.B. Charities that for years held tailgate parties near the Coliseum to raise funds for local causes. Jones’ tailgate events became such a community staple that a portion of 66th Avenue at Coliseum Way is widely known as M.O.B. Alley. Jones also led an organization called “Forever Oakland” that fought to keep the Raiders and also supported local causes. 

In a 2014 interview with the East Bay Times, Jones said M.O.B. encapsulated his “desire to be a fan for humanity and make the world a better place, and my experience of being an Oakland Raiders fan since I was a child.” 

Councilmember Noel Gallo, who introduced the renaming legislation, praised Jones for his humanitarian work. 

“If you wanted to donate money or supplies, they were always accepted,” Gallo wrote in a resolution. “Godfather Griz would repay this kindness with a hearty handshake and even heartier bear hug.” 

Jones died on July 20, 2022 after a battle with cancer. He was honored with tributes from fans as well as local electeds, including Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who called him “Oakland to the bone.” 

Angela Borricua Tirado, who serves as secretary of Forever Oakland, said Forever Oakland continues Jones’ work by holding monthly cleans up at parks around Oakland, doing toy and food drives, and other charitable work. 

Tirado told The Oaklandside her organization reached out to the City Council shortly after Jones died to find a way to honor him. She believes renaming 66th Avenue after Jones is the perfect tribute because it’s where “Griz” made Raiders fans and everyone else feel welcome. 

“His legacy is extremely important, and his goal was first making Oakland better,” Tirado said. “He wanted Oakland to be the little light that shines to make everything a little better.”

Eli Wolfe reports on City Hall for The Oaklandside. He was previously a senior reporter for San José Spotlight, where he had a beat covering Santa Clara County’s government and transportation. He also worked as an investigative reporter for the Pasadena-based newsroom FairWarning, where he covered labor, consumer protection and transportation issues. He started his journalism career as a freelancer based out of Berkeley. Eli’s stories have appeared in The Atlantic, NBCNews.com, Salon, the San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere. Eli graduated from UC Santa Cruz and grew up in San Francisco.