JOHN MADDEN SET THE FUSE
It was John Madden who said the 49ers where like the Roman Empire, during a 1994 Monday Night Football game against the Raiders, when Jerry Rice broke the touchdown record. Fans caught on and you’d hear their calls to KNBR sports talk radio saying we’re an Empire. That year we went on to win our 5th Super Bowl.
BIRTH OF THE EMPIRE
The “Empire” name did not catch on until over a decade later during some of our darkest days since our dynasty era. It was around 2005 at Candlestick Park when a Diehard fan named “AJ Esperanza” started the 49er Empire. Little did he know at the time that he was about to ignite what has become a global EMPIRE movement that we know today.
Respectfully, Esperanza is recognized by 49er fans as the “Founder of the 49er/Niner Empire Movement”. Although don’t be surprised with his response which is a statement that holds true at the root of The Niner Empire Organization carrying on the Debartolo family legacy.
Here are just a few of our many milestones over the years:
- 2005 – The 49er/Niner Empire group is started by AJ Esperanza at Candlestick Park during some dismal years for our team and the movement begins to get established as fans from outside the group begin to join in.
- 2006 – It took living outside the bay area to recognize the loneliness that a 49er fan feels. Diehard fan Rajeev Prasad used his background in entertainment and media to build a website specifically for 49er fans with the intention to make it a 49ers fan resource to connect on and share their love for their team. It was before the social media explosion and at the time the domain name www.ninerempire.com was available for $2,500 obviously way outside of the budget so www.theninerempire.com came alive at the start of that season.
- 2006 – Since booster clubs were few and far between, AJ Esperanza and his newfound movement found fans and groups online and it became a community effort to invite them to join The Niner Empire movement. Fans would share their info to be posted on the site for other fans to find.
- 2009 – The Red Zone Tailgate’s, Antonio Arevalo created a new game day experience beyond just a normal tailgate for fans to enjoy before going into the game. They won the first ever, “Tailgater of the Game Award” at Candlestick and the tailgating scene has never been the same.
- 2010 – Diehards Robert Vinton of Fresno, CA. and Kevin Mews of Hawaii came on board as Social Media managers boosting the awareness of the Empire movement even deeper into the fan base.
- 2012 – Diehard from Arizona, Denise Hines learned of the fan outreach and came on board as TNE ORG’s Marketing Manager.
- 2013 – Diehard from Germany, André “Keiner” Theunert joined TNE ORG founding Niner Empire Germany and became our international liaison for 49er fans from around the world.
- 2013 – After years of requests, TNE ORG begins research into building a membership program to help the website become self sustaining while continuing to enhance the fan experience.
- 2014 – With complete transparency as a not for profit group with the team we love, the entire details of the Membership Program plans were shared with the 49ers Organization. They loved the concept and the TNE ORG Membership Program was successfully launched.
- 2014 – The Niner Empire movement gained major recognition when it got coverage by national news media as 49er fans took over Dallas Cowboys stadium turning it into what looked and felt like a 49er home.
- 2014 – During Levis Stadium’s inaugural year’s end of the season Tailgate Competition, Esperanza posted “Empire Row” which sparked an idea to bring the Candlestick vibe to Levi’s.
- 2015 – AJ Esperanza and TNE ORG brought together Candlestick Tailgaters, Mine 49, The Red Zone Tailgate, La Klicka and Abel Rueda of Forty Niner Faithful Forum(F.F.F.) to create “EMPIRE ROW” Tailgate focusing on bringing the flavor of Candlestick back in the air and creating a place that is welcoming to all traveling fans to hang out at. It quickly became the place to visit even for opposing team fans to have a great time.
- 2015 – Mid-season, the Thursday Night Football Bus parked next to the EMPIRE ROW TAILGATE and broadcast the entire pregame nationally with clips throughout the game of how 49ers fans represent. Always With Class!
- 2015 – At the end of it’s founding year, EMPIRE ROW TAILGATE went on to win “Levis Stadium’s Tailgater of the Year Award”.
- 2016 – Our 10Year Anniversary party was held at HUE night club in San Francisco celebrating the accomplishments of Faithfuls worldwide as ONE FAMILY known today as the Empire!