ALAMEDA, Calif. -- On the surface, it was a simple act, a swipe of a necklace that has launched a thousand jokes, memes and references to the movie "Friday" and its villainous, chain-snatching foil Deebo.
My grandmama gave me that chain.
And yet ...
Michael Crabtree seeing his chain snatched not once but twice by Aqib Talib carries a deeper cultural meaning, one that resonates in the Oakland Raiders' locker room so deeply that, no, his teammates are not upset with him. Not for getting in a fight with Talib. Not for getting kicked out of a game. Not for earning a two-game suspension from the NFL that was reduced to one game but still will hurt the Raiders' depth at receiver this weekend against the New York Giants.
Because, to paraphrase actor-comedian Chris Rock, the Raiders aren't saying Crabtree should have gone after Talib ... but they understand.
"In the streets, a chain around your neck is like a trophy," cornerback David Amerson said. "Something that you work hard for, something that obviously costs a lot of money. Something that you value. So somebody comes and just snatches that off your neck, it's like taking your manhood or taking something that you really value or you really care about."
(If only to illustrate the power such a move can hold, a similar incident might have contributed to the death of rapper Tupac Shakur in 1996. As the story goes, an employee of Death Row Records, Shakur's label, got jumped and saw his medallion snatched. Not long after, in Las Vegas the weekend of the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon heavyweight title fight, the alleged assailant was spotted at the MGM Grand and Shakur and the Death Row crew jumped him. Later that night, apparently as retribution, Shakur was shot.)
"It's a sticky situation," Amerson said.
And it's one that began for Crabtree and Talib in the 2016 regular-season finale.
That's when the Broncos cornerback, after a yapping session with the Raiders receiver, reached up and snatched his chain. A stunned Crabtree did not respond, saying after the game that he made a "business decision" because he was trying to get to 1,000 yards receiving for the season and Oakland was headed to the playoffs.
Last Sunday was the first time Crabtree and Talib had met since that game. (Crabtree was inactive with a chest injury at Denver in Week 4.) And as receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said, it was only a matter of time before things got heated.
"It's pure disrespect," receiver Seth Roberts said. "Somebody takes your chain, obviously he felt some type of way and [Crabtree] wanted to do something about it because that's the second time it's happened. I respect it.
"I totally understand."
Of course, there is the train of thought that if you don't want your chain snatched, don't wear it on the field. Cornerback Sean Smith scoffed at the suggestion.
"Why wear your chain on the field? It could be outside [on the street]," he said. "You could get robbed outside. It doesn't matter where you're at. A chain could get snatched anywhere."
There are critics who faulted Crabtree for being selfish, for placing a personal grudge over team goals. And didn't Crabtree punch Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. in the stomach one play before Crabtree and Talib mixed it up?
"Maybe if you've never had anything taken from you then you don't understand what it's like," Smith said. "Especially a stranger taking something from you. There's no way to explain that. Lines have been crossed. If you don't know [how that feels], then you don't understand."
It was on the second play of the Raiders' second offensive series when Crabtree, lined up on the right side, blocked Talib forcefully down the field, away from where Marshawn Lynch was running up the middle. That's when Talib grabbed the chain again and the two fell into the sideline, near the Broncos' bench, setting off the melee.
They squared off again seconds later in the south end zone.
"I understand that we're in a position, we're on a football field, in front of millions of people, and you've got to handle yourself accordingly," Amerson said. "But at some point, it becomes about a respect thing. I'm pretty sure [Crabtree] was tired of people making jokes about the chain snatch.
"Of course, you want to be a team guy, which he is. [Crabtree] is a team guy. But me personally, I understand everything; how he felt about that. And I couldn't say I wouldn't have done the same thing. Not saying I encourage it, or anything like that, but I understand it. Any man can understand that situation at this point."
"They have history, you just have to understand," tight end Jared Cook said of Crabtree and Talib. "Ain't nobody trippin' on it around here."