By Tony Mangia
The Cincinnati Reds baseball cap has become a prominent fashion accessory in New York City courthouses and authorities are not happy about it. This recent penchant for the Reds is not an affectionate nod to NL MVP Joey Votto or even a disrespect to the Mets. The baseball cap with the iconic 'C' in the middle has become popular with Bloods gang members as a way to intimidate witnesses and show gang solidarity.
According to a report in the New York Daily News, more than a dozen men appear at Queens Supreme Court wearing the black-and-red caps with a red 'C' in the front. Gang prosecutors claim that these young men are members of the Bloods---one of the most notorious and dangerous gangs in the nation.
Bloods consider the bright red 'C' a bitch slap to the Crips and a brazen message to testifying witnesses. Officials attribute the high presence of Bloods in the Queens courthouse comes from the gang's stronghold in the nearby Far Rockaway housing projects.
Baseball caps as part of a gang's attire is nothing new. The Raiders black-and-silver caps with a pirate's face was all the gang rage in Los Angeles during the '90's and the Pittsburgh Pirates hat is favored by the Latin Kings. Right now the Reds cap is the color of choice by other gangs in Chicago and Indianapolis.
New York Yankee caps with gang colors were pulled from the shelves by manufacturer New Era in 2007. The red or blue bandanna-patterned lids were lifted because of their gang-related colors. Stores also removed others with a crown hanging from a gold 'NY' insignia after it became popular with the Latin Kings. Regular citizens were afraid of being affiliated with the gang and beaten by a rival clan.
While the hats cannot be worn inside the courtrooms, court officers can only watch and let their own presence be felt. A federal judge's 2003 decision to ban bikers colors in a Nevada courtroom was shot down and state laws are guided by it.
Court officers claim the gang members use their colors in other ways to make a silent statement. They might wear red shoelaces or sneakers. Even if they don't physically threaten witnesses inside the court, enough red-clad thugs staring one down could be enough to sway some one's memory or miss a court date. What the glut of red says is 'We know who you are and why you are here.'
Not everyone who wears a Reds cap is a Blood. Rapper Lil Wayne has made the hat (red with a white 'C') popular. He wears it as a tribute to his son who was born in Cincinnati. The Reds baseball cap is the third highest selling hat on the market.
Right now, the Los Angeles Dodgers cap is ranked the #1 gang-related sports cap, while the Reds is now #2. Watch where you wear them.