Bay Area Sports Embrace Latine Heritage

Pro sports franchises have begun to recognize the heritage and culture of their Hispanic fanbases. Photo courtesy of Hayley Hom/49ers

As professional sports franchises begin to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, teams in the Bay Area have made an effort to acknowledge such a large part of their fan bases. 

The Latine community makes up 39% of California’s population. It is the largest ethnic group in the state, and the third largest in the Bay Area, at 24%, according to SFist. 

The Latine community’s impact is seen in the sports world, specifically regarding Bay Area fandom. The Bay Area has six professional sports teams from San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco – the San Francisco Giants, San Francisco 49ers, and Golden State Warriors among others.

In May, Vivid Seats, a leading ticket sales company, collected data from their National Football League (NFL) ticket sales and found that the 49ers are not only the most popular NFL team in the Bay Area, but also in the state of California. Out of California’s 58 counties, 45 root for the 49ers. 

In the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Warriors are one of the most dominant franchises in the last decade. The Warriors made waves after the 2022 championship when Warrior and Oakland native Juan Toscano-Anderson became the first player of Mexican descent to win an NBA championship, according to NBC.

25-year-old Ysenia Rubio, a Latine San Francisco native from the Excelsior District, said, “We are already passionate about our roots and heritage. We bring that passion to our home sports teams as well — I have seen the passion in and out of our home stadiums. My favorite way to celebrate after a big win is going to the Mission and watching my community have our own parade with low riders, fireworks, and loud music.”

Pro sports teams recognize their Latine fan bases through special events during Hispanic Heritage Month and throughout the year. 

“All of our home teams have begun to acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month, such as ‘Fiesta Gigantes’ at Oracle Park,” said Rubio. “These events show that the teams recognize us, and give us the same love we give them.”

The annual ‘Fiesta Gigantes’ has been a tradition since 2005, where players celebrate the impact Latines have made on the game of baseball and the city of San Francisco. Giants also had a Mexican Heritage Night on Sept. 12, which they hold annually at Oracle Park.

Last week, the 49ers held their annual Hispanic Heritage Night game in which they recognized the “histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America, through unique activations, events, and merchandise,” according to their website.

49ers game activations are intended to be engaging additions to the lineup of in-game entertainment. The 49ers began their Hispanic Heritage Night game with the traditional sounding of the foghorn, led by offensive lineman Alfredo Gutierrez, an international player from Tijuana, Mexico.

The 49ers’ Chief Marketing Officer Alex Chang stated, “Our Latino Heritage Month activations celebrate the unique culture and people that are a part of the fabric of the 49er Faithful and of the Bay Area. Latino pride runs deep within our organization, from our players, to our fan base, to our staff. 

“In fact, our Latino employee resource group, LEAD [LatinX, Empowerment, Advancement, and Development], plays a key role in developing our Latino Heritage Month plan,” he said.

Emmanuel Zamora Corral, a 21-year-old San Francisco native from the Mission District, said, “My dad influenced me and taught me how to love Bay Area sports.“My father is an immigrant from Mexico, and since then, he’s always been a 49ers fan and has shown my brother and I his love for the Niners and all teams in the Bay. It’s a family thing with sports.”

Rubio also shares a love of sports. “My biggest influence on my love of Bay Area sports is my grandfather. He came to the Bay from El Salvador in his late teens,” Rubio said. “At that time, American sports leagues were nothing like they were today. However, his love for San Francisco teams has not changed since then.”

“He’s always enjoyed the 49ers and Giants and has loved seeing the Warriors transform over the years. He’s been lucky enough to see memorable moments for teams at Kezar Stadium, Candlestick Park, and Oracle Park — before it was even known as Oracle Park,” Rubio said. “Although he’s gotten older and doesn’t enjoy crowds as much, one thing he makes sure to do is watch his teams play from the comfort of his home. I love watching and talking with him about the games.”

Corral said, “Sports culture has contributed a lot to the Hispanic community because our community has a very strong family mentality, in that we all care for one another at home, as well as on the field or on the court,” 

He continued, “I think sports in the Hispanic community can evolve through representation, in sports that aren’t necessarily dominated by Hispanics. For example, the more Hispanics that get into football, the more children will see that and try the sport out for themselves, and that goes for various sports, not just football.”
On Sept. 30, the Giants will host their “Fiesta Gigantes” game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The players will wear their “Gigantes” jerseys and there will be live music from Spanish-language rock bands as well as special food offerings.


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