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SUPER BOWL XXI : DENVER vs. NEW YORK : Davis Raids Rozelle's Big Speech : Owner Subpoenas Commissioner During State-of-the-NFL Talk

January 24, 1987|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

No sooner had Commissioner Pete Rozelle of the National Football League said Friday that he was optimistic about the league's future because of its shortened legal agenda than he was served with his second subpoena in 10 minutes.

The second was served by a private investigator representing Al Davis, the Raiders' managing general partner, during Rozelle's news conference at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel.

The first, identical to the second, had been served by an unidentified man moments before Rozelle entered the conference room.

Rozelle was ordered to testify in former San Diego Chargers owner Eugene Klein's lawsuit against Davis.

Klein sued Davis for malicious prosecution after the Raiders' successful 1980-81 antitrust suit against the NFL. Klein claimed that a heart attack he suffered on the witness stand in August 1982 was a consequence of Davis' naming him as a defendant in the suit.

Klein won a judgment Dec. 10 for more than $5 million in compensatory damages against Davis. The punitive damages phase of the trial is scheduled to begin Monday in Superior Court in San Diego.

After Rozelle had completed his opening remarks in the annual pre-Super Bowl news conference, a man approached the podium, handed Rozelle the subpoena and introduced himself as "Carson Lowe, private investigator."

Seemingly unfazed, Rozelle said: "So you're Carson Lowe."

Then, turning his attention to the 500 or so reporters in the room, Rozelle said he had been warned earlier this week that an attempt would be made to serve him.

Indeed, Rozelle had the first subpoena in his coat pocket as he was served with the second. "I guess the second one was a publicity ploy on the Raiders' part," NFL spokesman Joe Browne said. "I guess it was Al's way of getting into the Super Bowl limelight."

When the news conference resumed, Rozelle said he had been advised by league attorneys that the subpoena is invalid and that he will not have to appear in court.

"Our attorneys say it's invalid on the basis that he's an out-of-state resident who is in California for a specific purpose and will be leaving shortly after," Browne said.

But in an interview with the Associated Press, an unidentified Raider spokesman said the subpoena was valid.

"The lunacy of the Klein case that we feel will be overturned shortly necessitated that Rozelle be a witness," the spokesman said.

"The attorneys involved in the case did this, and I understand he has evaded service at some quiet and unpopulated spot at his hotel.

"Klein and Klein's lawyers linked Rozelle and the owners as supporters and witnesses in this case, and our lawyers simply followed through.

"Mr. Rozelle is expected to testify as to the decreasing value of NFL teams plus the status of television contracts since we no longer have a contract after this game, and the fact we no longer have a labor agreement after this game."

The NFL's contracts with the three major television networks will expire Feb. 1. The collective bargaining agreement between the owners and the NFL Players' Assn. will expire Aug. 31.

Browne said that the allegation that Rozelle had avoided being served the subpoena at his hotel was nonsense.

When a reporter asked Rozelle how the private investigator had obtained a credential to attend the news conference, the commissioner joked: "From a former league employee."

Despite the two subpoenas, Rozelle appeared in a positive mood.

"I feel more complacent, relaxed and optimistic about the future of the National Football League than I did a year ago (at the Super Bowl) in New Orleans," he said.

He said that was because of the NFL's successes during 1986 in court.

Not only was the league ordered to pay only $3 in damages to the United States Football League, which had sued the NFL for $1.6 billion, the $33 million award the Raiders won in their antitrust suit was overturned. Both cases are under appeal.

Rozelle indicated that the most pressing issue facing the NFL during the off-season is the collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners.

He said there is a possibility of a player strike that would affect the 1987 season but added he is optimistic that an agreement will be reached.

"This time around, I don't think anyone wants to strike," he said. "I think they (owners and players) remember what happened during the last strike in 1982.

"The owners lost $150 million and the players lost seven games worth of paychecks. The climate is better than it was then."

Rozelle said he hopes the players will accept his proposal for unscheduled drug testing and not use it as a bargaining chip in negotiations.

"I hope they take the position the NBA players did, that they want to tackle the problem," Rozelle said.

As part of his proposal, players would be tested at least once a year for anabolic steroids.

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