Al Davis, RIP, 82 Years Old

Editor’s Note: As reported in the New York Times:

Al Davis, the irascible owner of the Oakland Raiders whose feuds with the N.F.L. reshaped professional football over the last half-century and helped spur its rise to pre-eminence in the landscape of American sports, died Saturday. He was 82. 

The Raiders said he died at his home in Oakland.

Before there were owners like George Steinbrenner or Jerry Jones or Mark Cuban, there was Al Davis, an outspoken and successful irritant to the N.F.L., who fielded teams capable of championship-caliber play. Mr. Davis was hired by the Raiders to be the coach and general manager in 1963 and remained with the team almost continuously for nearly 50 years. He left briefly in 1966 to become the commissioner of the A.F.L., vowing to battle with the N.F.L. to sign the best players available. Many observers at the time believed that that attitude led N.F.L. owners to agree to play the A.F.L. in an annual championship game that would come to be called the Super Bowl. In 1970, the two leagues played a united schedule for the first time, creating the modern N.F.L.

He was also one of a dwindling number of N.F.L. owners whose riches came primarily from the business of football. There were no hedge funds or shipping companies in Mr. Davis’s background. He simply ran the Raiders — the team appeared in five Super Bowls under his ownership, winning three — and his business model could be summed up by the phrase that became his franchise’s mantra: “Just win, baby!”

“It’s tunnel vision, a tunnel life,” he once told People magazine. “I’m not really part of society.”

Mr. Davis opposed the N.F.L.-A.F.L. merger. But becoming part of the N.F.L. did not stop him from trying to change it. Mr. Davis became the symbol of a franchise that garnered a reputation for outlaw personalities and a kind of counterculture sensibility. The Raiders were the first franchise in the modern era to have a Latino head coach (Tom Flores), a black head coach (Art Shell) and a female chief executive (Amy Trask). He feuded for decades with the former commissioner Pete Rozelle, and he sued the N.F.L. in the early 1980s so that he could move the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles. Then, 13 years later, he moved them back.

“He is a true legend of the game whose impact and legacy will…(read more)

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