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Davis Gets Testy During NFL Trial

Jurisprudence: Raider owner angrily challenges league's claims and takes shots at attorney and Tagliabue.

April 13, 2001|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In his fourth day on the witness stand, and his second of cross-examination in the Raiders' $1-billion lawsuit against the NFL, owner Al Davis showed flashes of his old self, snapping and snarling at his interrogator, attorney Allen Ruby.

Dropping the veneer of congeniality that had characterized much of his first few days of testimony, Davis took his shots at both Ruby and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue on Thursday in the Los Angeles Superior Court trial.

Ruby spent the day zeroing in on the two key elements of the Raider case--that they were forced out of a proposed deal to build a stadium at Hollywood Park in 1995 by the league's insistence on a second team playing there, but that, despite the Raiders' subsequent move to Oakland, they still own the territorial rights to the Los Angeles market.

In an antitrust case against the league in the 1980s, the Raiders were awarded $64 million, but actually received $18 million. The league's argument is, that was a settlement in which the team agreed to drop any further claims. The Raiders say they gave up the remaining $46 million as part of an injunction that grants them perpetual rights over this territory.

Of the Hollywood Park plan, Davis said: "The whole thing was a charade. Someone else took it from us and didn't want us to have it."

Davis made it plain that someone was Tagliabue.

The Raider owner testified that the deal collapsed in the two days after June 6, 1995. On that date, Davis said, league officials were promising that he would get two seasons at the Hollywood Park site as sole tenant before a second team was brought in. Within 48 hours, Davis testified, he learned that the second team would begin playing at Hollywood Park along with the Raiders in their inaugural season in the Inglewood facility.

"By June 8th, the change had occurred," Davis said. "It was a major change and was of great concern to me. . . . How could it change in two days and no one would give me an answer? . . . The whole situation was held from me and I think it was held from me deliberately."

Still, Davis said, he waited until June 23 to sign a letter of intent to move north.

"The deal was dead," he testified, "but I wanted to see if there was any hope for me."

Davis said that he wanted to get "the splits," the amount of revenue the second team would have to give to Hollywood Park, but was unable to obtain that information.

The Raiders would have been required to split their revenues with Hollywood Park on a 50-50 basis.

Asked by Ruby why he didn't continue negotiating, Davis replied, "Are you suggesting we should beg at that time when all reason had gone out the window?"

When Ruby suggested that Davis had rejected the Hollywood Park plan for a lucrative deal in Oakland, Davis replied, "That's ridiculous. That's not what happened. . . . You forced me to reject it because you destroyed it at Hollywood Park."

Davis insisted greed wasn't the major factor in his move.

"I didn't want to be at the bottom of the league in terms of revenue streams," he said. "If some [team] was making $100 million, I didn't have to make $100 million, but I didn't want to make $20 million."

Davis absolved Hollywood Park executive R.D. Hubbard of any blame in the collapsed deal, saying, "He was a prisoner of the league."

When Ruby showed Davis a document in which the date of June 5 had been crossed out and replaced with June 19, Davis, awash in sarcasm, said, "Who crossed it out? I'm asking you if you did?"

When Ruby referred to his "clients," Davis said, "I'm not sure who your clients are, based on what you are asking me about Oakland."

And later, Davis said, "Who broke the rules? . . . Who sued who? . . . Why are we here, Mr. Ruby?"

Davis even got in a parting shot at his own staff when shown a Raider press release.

Is this true?, Ruby asked him.

"Not necessarily," Davis said, "but it's a good puff piece."

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