The National Football League and the Los Angeles Raiders reached a settlement Saturday of the Raiders’ 11-year-old antitrust suit against the NFL for impeding the team’s move from Oakland, with the Raiders receiving considerably less than the $34.6-million judgment rendered against the league in 1983.
Although the announcement of the settlement by U.S. Circuit Judge Harry Pregerson said the amount and other details were being “placed under seal” at the request of the two parties, it was learned that the Raiders will get a base sum of $18 million, plus interest accruing from Saturday.
Raiders spokeswoman Sue Turner estimated that the team would eventually get about $20 million.
NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle expressed relief that the case was finally over while Raiders owner Al Davis took little joy in his victory.
“Obviously, the whole matter was very distasteful,” Rozelle declared. “It’s very nice to have it behind us. I think it tied us all up.”
Turner quoted Davis as saying, “Unfortunately, there’s just no satisfaction in winning these lawsuits.”
A source with knowledge of the details of the settlement who spoke on condition that he not be identified said the Raiders must pay their attorneys out of the amount they get. Last year, in a federal court hearing, the team’s attorneys, led by former San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto, said their fees would be $8 million.
The Raiders were placed in a position of disadvantage in the settlement negotiations by a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the 1983 judgment against the NFL should be offset by any increased value in the Raider franchise as a result of its relocation in Los Angeles.
After U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter Jr. decided last June to permit the NFL’s attorneys to argue in a new trial that the offset was so great that the Raiders should pay the NFL rather than the other way around, it became clear that a protracted new round of legal battling was in prospect.
‘Tired of the Dispute’
“I think they were all tired of the dispute,” said a party privy to the settlement talks Saturday. “When these settlement conferences began, the offset theory that the Court of Appeals came up with was right up the NFL’s alley. Frank Rothman (the NFL’s attorney) said that if he couldn’t prove that a franchise in L.A. was worth more than a franchise in Oakland, he would be very surprised.”
The result is that the Raiders will get less in damages from the NFL than were received from the league in 1987 by the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, which got $29.5 million, including $9.9 million to pay its attorneys. It was the Coliseum Commission that first sued the NFL for trying to block the Raiders move from Oakland, and it was later joined in the suit by the Raiders.
Neither Rothman nor Alioto returned calls asking for comment on the settlement. But two attorneys associated with Alioto said they knew that the matter of the interest to be paid on the basic $18 million was a subject of lengthy negotiations.
The NFL had offered 8% interest, while Alioto had asked for 12%, they said. Finally, the matter was resolved with a sliding interest scale, depending on dates of payment. But since it was decided that the interest would not start accruing until Saturday and would not be compounded, its total may not be very much.
Ironically, the Coliseum Commission and the Raiders have, since the team’s move, had a falling out over plans to renovate the Coliseum. The Raiders have announced plans to move to suburban Irwindale and build a stadium there, and there have been recent reports that if this falls through, Davis may even consider moving back to Oakland.
Nonetheless, the finding in favor of the Coliseum Commission and the Raiders in the antitrust suit established an important precedent in American professional sports, widening the rights of individual franchises to move from one place to another over league objections.
Pregerson’s announcement Saturday noted that the case was originally filed in 1978 by the Coliseum Commission against the NFL and all 28 professional football teams belonging to it, charging that they had conspired in violation of antitrust laws to block the move from Oakland. The team actually moved in 1982.
Later, the Raiders joined the suit as a plaintiff against the NFL and the other 27 teams in the league. The first trial ended in a hung jury and was declared a mistrial, but the second jury trial resulted in the judgments in favor of the Coliseum Commission and the Raiders.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the award to the commission, but returned the Raiders portion of the case to the District Court for the offset proceedings. Although Pregerson at that point handed the case over to Hatter, Hatter asked Pregerson last year to preside over the settlement discussions.