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COMMENTARY

Raiders' Davis Is Called for Holden

January 28, 1998|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Councilman Nate Holden was called many things last week, none of them complimentary, after saying at a news conference that he thinks the Raiders are coming back to Los Angeles.

Fellow politicians, NFL officials and even Raider personnel said they had no idea what Holden was talking about.

But Tuesday in Oakland, Raider owner Al Davis said Holden was "very, very smart."

It's one thing to be considered a ship's loose cannon, as Holden may be. It's another to find yourself rolling along with Davis, who has long been the NFL's resident loose cannon.

The Raiders held a news conference Tuesday to introduce their new coach, Jon Gruden. But Davis upstaged his coach--get used to it, Jon--to comment on Holden's comments of Thursday, delivered in front of the Coliseum with Holden garbed in Raider gear.

Maybe Holden thought he was going to be the new coach.

"His credibility cannot be questioned because he's a bright guy," Davis said of Holden. "When you are sued by your own city, it causes great concern by those who are sued."

Oakland city officials, worried that the Raiders will try to get out of an Oakland Coliseum lease that has 13 years to run, sued the club last year. At issue is $130 million in stadium renovations.

Davis, meanwhile, is embroiled in a lawsuit with the NFL over territorial rights to the Los Angeles area.

Holden thinks it will all end with the Raiders returning here, to the city they deserted in 1994.

His comments drew a warning Monday from Edward Reines, an attorney representing the city of Oakland.

Reines wrote in a letter to Holden, "You are on notice that talks with the Oakland Raiders aimed at moving the team to Los Angeles [while the club has a contract with Oakland] would constitute tortious interference . . . exposing you to potential liability."

Responded Holden, "All legal experts that I have discussed this matter with are betting on Al Davis to defeat the NFL once again and the score will be Al Davis 2, and the NFL 0. That is a touchback."

Wrong, Nate, that is a safety. On second thought, maybe you need more than a cap and shirt to get that coaching job.

Continued Holden, "The facts are clear. If Al Davis is going to win this lawsuit, we should open our minds to accept a football team, whether it be a new franchise team or the Raiders. . . . In order to get a team, we may have to deal with Al Davis, or sit around and wait for the NFL to finish this suit and get down to the business of football in Los Angeles. The people are hungry for a major league football team. The city of Los Angeles needs a team to stimulate the economy. We are talking about approximately one billion dollars a year. . . .

"[Oakland officials] have now gone on record, blaming me, because they have failed to provide needed support to make the Raiders a successful team. They are threatening me with a lawsuit. . . . Oakland obviously does not consider this laughable. . . . Now the tables are turned and Oakland is afraid of being the loser of an NFL team."

As Davis said, this is a very, very smart man.

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