Even though the name Al Davis is kinda a common name, everyone knew Al Davis, the late owner of the Oakland Raiders. Davis has been described as a renegade because he didn’t always adopt the NFL company line. Only a few months ago, I remember when the NFL owners voted to ratify a deal that the NFLPA had not seen. Well, while 31 teams voted affirmatively for the deal, the Oakland Raiders abstained. Though not much was made of the abstention, I definitely believe that Al Davis sent a message to his colleagues that he did not agree with their tactics.
Davis’ challenges to the NFL have been well documented. As Commissioner of the now-defunct AFL, Davis openly stated that he intended to take NFL players and bring them over to his league. I’m sure the master plan was to bring down his nemesis and Commissioner of the NFL, Pete Rozelle. Though his tenure as Commissioner lasted a few short months, Davis’ bold moves helped to merge the AFL and NFL into one league.
Even though I am a life-long Cowboys fan, I also like the Raiders. The first new car my parents bought was silver with a black top. I picked the car out of the showroom...I loved that car! Ever since I can remember, I rooted for the Raiders to beat the Steelers, and everyone else except the Cowboys. There was something about the Raiders “Bad Boy” image. Jack Tatum, John Matuszak, Howie Long, Gene Upshaw, Lyle Alzado, Kenny Stabler, and Lester Hayes come to mind immediately. If you were a Raiders opponent, the helmet logo alone let you know what type of team you were up against. And many a team was intimidated before setting foot on the field. Intimidation was encouraged by Al Davis. His “Commitment to Excellence” and “Just Win, Baby” mantras were well known by players, fans, and foes alike.
One of the things I admired about Al Davis was his belief in diversity. If you looked at the racial composition of his team and coaches, it was evident that African Americans had just as much of a chance to succeed as Caucasians. Art Shell became the first African American head coach in the league, and had two stints as the Raiders head coach. Let’s not forget how Jim Plunkett and Tom Flores, who are of Hispanic descent, were given a chance to prosper and became Super Bowl winning quarterback and coach, respectively. More recently, Amy Trask has served as CEO, making her the first women serving in that position. That’s a great legacy.
Many owners, like the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, seek to emulate Davis’ renegade persona, but, no one will ever be able to replace him. Rest in Peace Mr. Davis.