The woman behind the Richmond Raiders

She grew up with seven older brothers who played football. Now she’s running the show (on and off the field) of Richmond’s indoor football team.

Elizabeth Fraizer grew up in a family of 16 that lived in a four bedroom, one-and-a-half bath home in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. But it wasn’t a destitute life.

“We were happy, healthy, and all went to college,” Fraizer said. Her mother often said that happiness is not found, but made. “It does not depend on what you do not have, but on the use you make of what you do have.”

Frazier was soon exposed to sports. “With 14 kids, that’s how you keep them channeling their energy and out of trouble,” she said. “I grew up with seven brothers, and they all played football.”1

Fraizer’s football ties even helped her land a job after college. “One of the guys that played with my brother…he was a manager at Xerox, and he hired me as a Xerox rep in Cleveland,” she said.

Later, Elizabeth met and married her husband, Michael–an avid football fan from Nebraska2–and the two moved to upstate New York. She worked at Baxter Travenol as one of the first six outside saleswomen hired by the company.

Eventually, the Fraziers and their two children moved to Richmond in 1997 without knowing that football was once again spiraling Fraizer’s way.

It began one night when Fraizer’s husband was at the computer. “He was just online and looking at the news of the day, and up popped an article about a guy who owned an indoor professional football league who was coming to Richmond,” Frazier said. The league owner wanted the expansion team to have local ownership.

Fraizer and her husband met with the league owner at Palani Drive to begin discussions about operating a local team. Within a few months, they had the keys to Richmond’s indoor football team. Over 100 proposed names were submitted for a contest to name the new team. Raiders was chosen in August 2009.

When Fraizer became the Raiders co-owner, she joined a relatively small list of female sports owners. She doesn’t care if she’s a minority. Growing up in such a big family, she said, she never considered that being female prevented her from doing the things that her brothers could do. The idea of being among just a few female sports owners doesn’t preoccupy her either. “I don’t really think about it that often…I think about getting important things done.”

Indoor football is essentially a compact version of college and NFL football. It’s played on a 50-yard field and only eight players from each team are allowed on the field. Yet, just like the NFL, indoor football games comprise 15-minute quarters.

The sidelines in indoor football are where things get interesting. Unlike those in college and in the NFL, the sidelines are fenced in by a 4-foot padded wall. As you can imagine, it’s not uncommon for players to crash over the wall after a fierce tackle. “You can keep the football, but toss the player back,” Fraizer says.

While the NFL may have the media and fame, indoor football has the offense. Because of the smaller field, teams typically score more during games than their NFL counterparts. “It’s faced paced and more entertaining,” Fraizer said. Spectators are mere feet from the field, and can be vital to the team’s success. “We pride ourselves on the 9th man [i.e. the crowd], especially at the Richmond Coliseum where it does get extremely loud.”

Because of that noise, other football leagues often eye the indoor football league for future referees. “We are a training ground for NFL referees,” Fraizer said. “The fast-paced indoor game creates a very quick situation for the refs to make a call, and they have to many times in a game. The fans will loudly and often disagree because they are so close to the field, so if the officials don’t get it right (in their opinion) they hear it from the crowd, who is only steps away.”

While some referees may move up to officiate NFL games, many Richmond families can’t make the trip to FedEx Field to watch the Washington Redskins because games are so expensive. The Raiders provide an affordable football option here in town. Single game tickets can cost as little as $7 each per game, which is much easier on the wallets for anyone, especially those of parents. “We’re more about families,” Fraizer said. “Growing up we did not attend Cleveland Browns games as a family because taking 16 people to a game would have been wildly expensive.”

But the families the Raiders care most about aren’t the ones sitting in the Richmond Coliseum to watch home games. After just a few minutes talking with Fraizer you realize that one of the biggest reasons why she and her husband own the Raiders isn’t to make money. “It gives us a platform for getting our guys into the community,” she said.

The Raiders, for all of the excitement indoor football games provide, seem to exist more for the city than for entertainment. “If we can somehow have an impact on [the community] and the lives of young people, than all is good,” Fraizer said. “That’s more important than winning a championship.” That’s not a PR line. “It’s not all about the business, it’s about what you’re doing in the community.”

In 2010, the team kicked off the IMPACT program wherein Raiders players mentor middle school students in Richmond City Public Schools. The players abide in the CHARACTER COUNTS! Character Education Program, one of the largest character education program in the US. The six pillars the players try to impart:

  • Trustworthiness
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Fairness
  • Caring
  • Citizenship

Nearly every week, players visit local schools to speak with students. All Raiders players are expected to contribute their free time to community causes. “We’re very active in the community, so if you don’t believe in that…this really isn’t the right team for you,” Fraizer said.

It definitely seems that Richmond is the right city for the Raiders. “We’ve got some real serious fans,” Fraizer said. “Awareness of the team has grown tremendously. Tickets sales have increased at a steady pace, and the past two years we have played in the championship game. We are serious about winning the league title and impress upon the players to work hard, be determined, and believe.”

As the organization enters its fifth season, ready to continue its growth, Fraizer and her husband embody the advice they and their players preach. “If you truly believe in yourself, you can do it,” she said. “If you work hard, and you’re determined, and you help people along the way, good things will come,” she said.

The Richmond Raiders kick off their season when they visit the Trenton Freedom on March 30th. Their home opener at the Richmond Coliseum is against the Alabama Hammers on April 12th.

  1. Two of her brothers would go on to full college scholarships at Northwestern and Perdue. 
  2. It’s said that Memorial Stadium, home of University of Nebraska, becomes the third-largest city in Nebraska on game days. The over 90,000-seat capacity stadium holds the NCAA record of 333 consecutive sellouts, which began in 1962. 
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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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