Raiders owner Al Davis testifies in suit against league

Monday, April 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Raiders owner Al Davis testified Monday that it was never his preference to leave Los Angeles for Oakland in 1995 and that he considered other possible sites for a new stadium before focusing on a facility at Hollywood Park.

Wearing a black pinstriped suit and one of three Super Bowl rings won by his team, Davis took the witness stand for the first time in his $1 billion lawsuit against the NFL.
"I wanted to be here, in Los Angeles. I wanted the Raiders to be here," Davis testified as the trial entered its fifth week in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

In the lawsuit, Davis insists that the right to the Los Angeles football market still belongs to him. He says the NFL forced him out of town by pushing for a second team to play at the new stadium proposed at Hollywood Park in suburban Inglewood.

If the NFL wants Los Angeles back, he says, it will have to pay him more than $1 billion for the privilege and for the revenue he says he lost.

The NFL denies any wrongdoing and says Davis never made a serious commitment to building a stadium at Hollywood Park.

Instead, the league claims Davis used the Hollywood Park negotiations to get a better deal from Oakland, where he accepted a package that provided $63 million in upfront payments, loans and other benefits.

During Monday's proceedings, Raiders attorney Joe Alioto introduced an NFL document dated July 21, 1995 -- a month after the Raiders announced their return to Oakland.
The Raiders had made "substantial efforts over an extended period of time to secure a first-class venue for their games in Los Angeles," according to a memo from NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to league owners.
Although Davis said he preferred the Hollywood Park plan, he also testified that he had considered Irvine, Long Beach, San Pedro and possible sites for his team.

Davis also said that if the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum had been modernized with luxury suites, he could have been satisfied to keep the Raiders there. The team played at that stadium from 1982 to 1994 after moving south from Oakland.
"I've never been afraid of the Coliseum," Davis said. "(But) you have to have club seats, suites, the ability to get people in these particular areas. That's where most of the money comes from."

Davis is seen by some in sports as a renegade who puts his financial interests ahead of the league. He prevailed over the NFL in 1983 in an antitrust lawsuit that let the Raiders come to Los Angeles in the first place and cleared the way for other teams that want to pick up and move.
One question raised by the case is whether Davis is angling to move the Raiders back to Los Angeles.

Davis declined to comment on that possibility at the start of the trial. But as part of a separate lawsuit against the city of Oakland, he asked a judge to let him out of a lease requiring the team to play at the Oakland Coliseum for 10 more years. That request was denied.