Davis Claims NFL's Problem Is Rozelle's Arrogance of Power

Times Staff Writer

Raiders owner Al Davis has his own explanation for the madness afoot in the NFL of late, and it won't play well in commissioner Pete Rozelle's office.

Charging Rozelle with "the arrogance of power," Davis blames Rozelle for the current happy-feet syndrome in the league: Baltimore moving to Indianapolis, Philadelphia nearly to Phoenix, St. Louis' current fling with Phoenix and the uncertainty in New Orleans and elsewhere.

"He knew this is what would happen and he wants it that way," Davis said. "He wants to be able to go to Congress or to the Supreme Court and say, 'Look, I told you so.' "

Davis won a $49-million anti-trust suit against the NFL last year. In commenting on the decision, the courts suggested that the NFL adopt "more objective standards" for a team to move, instead of the two-third majority rule. Davis charges that Rozelle has ignored that warning and jeopardized teams like Baltimore and Philadelphia.

"I told him six months ago that we had to set down some objective standards (for moving a team) and settle this thing for good. . . . But he didn't want it prevented. . . . (At a meeting) in Phoenix, many of the owners tried to get him to settle this. I wasn't in the room, but I know that (Philadelphia Eagles owner Leonard) Tose, (Minnesota Vikings owner Max) Winter, and (San Francisco 49ers owner) Eddie DeBartolo were a few that opposed it. They tell me the vote was 17-7. But he threatened to quit if they decided to settle. You know who runs this league."

To keep the Raiders down, Davis alleges that Rozelle was willing to put up with anything from other owners.

"Why do you think he put up with all of Tose's problems (an alleged $30-million casino gambling debt)? . . . Why is Rozelle a signer on some of Tose's bank notes? Why did he (Rozelle) put up with the drinking and carrying on from (Indianapolis owner Robert) Irsay? You want to know why? Because any owner could have committed any crime in this league as long as he promised to hold the Raiders in check."

Davis says he is still concerned that there is "a slight chance" NFL attorneys will be able to persuade the Supreme Court to hear the Raiders case one more time and, perhaps, overturn the verdict. The final word is expected within a few months.

"Plus, they've spent between $6 million and $10 million in Congress lobbying against us (for antitrust exemption)," Davis said. "They are draining us. But we will beat them, just like we beat them in the courts."

Davis calls Rozelle a man "who will destroy the whole league if we're not careful. Rome burned. . . . He is a phony and a fraud and he is scurrilous. The dirty tricks he's pulled to try to defeat our organization are just unbelievable, and he's still trying."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World