What do Peyton Manning and Christopher Cox have in common?
At first blush, nothing. Manning is a future Hall of Fame quarterback who'll lead the Denver Broncos in this Sunday's Super Bowl 50 — possibly his final game — while Cox is currently serving a 42-year sentence for offenses related to organized crime.
His nicknames include "Crook" and "Vanilla."
But Cox and his cohorts are among those responsible for plenty of kids in the Greeley area not being allowed to wear Manning's jersey to school today.
Why? Their association in the notorious 18th Street Gang appears to have inspired a Greeley-Evans School District 6 policy against students donning clothing that features an 18.
And that just happens to be Manning's number.
The 18th Street Gang isn't limited to Greeley. The notoriously violent outfit started as a street gang in Los Angeles before spreading across the globe.
The book Maras: Gang Violence and Security in Central America, by Thomas Bruneau, Lucia Dammert and Elizabeth Skinner, maintains that cliques have taken root in Mexico, El Salvador, Australia, Canada, Germany, Lebanon, Peru and Chile, among other countries — and that's not to mention affiliated in an estimated 120 U.S. cities in 37 states.
The latter communities include Greeley, where a March 2011 bust was touted as the fruit of an investigation in the 18th Streeters begun by the Greeley Police Department fourteen years earlier.
Cox was eventually indicted on six felony charges: violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act , two counts apiece of witness/victim intimidation and conspiracy to commit witness/victim intimidation, plus aggravated robbery and attempted aggravated robbery. And similar allegations were pressed against associates Rosendo Santa-Cruz, Ramon Acevedo, Joseph Perez and Jeremiah Guajardo.
That same year, District 6 enacted its ban against the number 18, as well as other digits that are reportedly associated with gangs in the area.
Nixed are 13 and 14, as well as the reversed versions of all three figures: 31, 41 and 81.
Back in 2011, telling Broncos-loving kids that 18 was off-limits was no big deal, since the number had been retired many years earlier to honor former Bronco QB Frank Tripucka — hardly a hero to 21st century youth.
But when Manning signed with the Broncos the next year, he got permission from Tripucka to wear 18, as he'd done with his previous team, the Indianapolis Colts.
There was a brief stir over the District 6 policy upon Manning's arrival in Denver, as witnessed by this 2012 thread on SportsJournalists.com labeled "Peyton Manning, Gangster."
But the policy remains in place because of continuing gang activity in the area, and the Greeley Tribunequotes a district spokeswoman as saying that few complaints have been lodged over the years about it.
Manning fans aren't the only ones impacted by the rule, although the other Broncos with verboten numbers aren't especially prominent: backup QB Trevor Siemian (13), second-string receiver Cody Latimer (14), utility man/safety Omar Bolden (31) and tight end Owen Daniels (81). And as of now, no Denver player has been assigned number 41.
Tough luck, Peyton lovers — but don't get angry at your teachers about the Manning jersey issue. Blame Christopher "Crook" Cox instead.
Look below to see a documentary about the 18th Street Gang in L.A.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.