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Bill Dwyre

Trask Is Just Doing Her Job as a Raiders Executive

July 15, 2006|Bill Dwyre

Read the words, then close your eyes and give them a face:

"It is 19 years into my career, and my favorite day is still game day. The day of the Super Bowl is, to me, New Year's Day. Then, I can't wait for the day in April when the schedule is released. That's when the season is tangible. Pretty soon, it is opening of training camp and then the first preseason game. And we're ready to go again."

If your face is a husky, hard-jawed, unshaven NFL coach, you've got it wrong.

The words come from 5-foot-3, 107-pound Amy Trask, the 45-year-old executive of the Oakland Raiders, who may be the best proof that passion for football -- or any sport -- has no gender preference.

For all that has been said, and will be said, about Raider owner Al Davis, his commitment to excellence has embraced all colors, races, creeds and genders. Tom Flores was the first Mexican American to coach in the NFL, Art Shell the first African American. Davis made each first.

Davis has, however, carried one huge bias all these years and applied it to all sides of operation. He demands loyalty.

And so, back in 1985, when he saw it in one of his former interns, a graduate of Cal and later USC's law school, he hired her back two years later and hasn't stopped giving her the freedom to grow. In 1997, Davis made Trask his chief executive.

At a sports symposium Thursday night, run by the L.A. Sports and Entertainment Commission, Davis' chief executive was the star of the show. She was on a panel with a handful of current and past players, and what she said, and how she said it, resonated best with the audience.

At one point, she got into a heated discussion/demonstration with Mike Pereira, senior director of officiating for the NFL. The topic was the long-discussed and still-controversial Tom Brady fumble ruled an incomplete pass in the Raiders' divisional playoff game against the New England Patriots during the 2001 season. Pereira and Trask have been arguing this for years and will argue it for years more. As the play was being reviewed that day in Foxborough, Trask stood over veteran official Art McNally in the press box and uttered her now legendary words: "You better call 911, because I'm going to have a

They did, but she has lived to fight another day.

"I will go to my grave, knowing that that was a fumble," she says now.

She doesn't look tough, but she is. She once faced down the commissioner, when Paul Tagliabue wanted a discussion to end and she wasn't ready.

Worse, she routinely and comfortably mingles with Raiders fans, including occasional trips into McAfee Coliseum's Black Hole, home of tattoos, pierced jewelry and slobbering pit bulls named after local sportswriters.

She is often the lone Raiders face at owners meetings now, if Davis doesn't attend, and the lone woman in the room. She says she was fine with that from the start.

"I don't intimidate easily," she says.

She also says that she has always tried to carry herself in such a way in those situations that her gender wasn't an issue.

"I just walked in," she says. "If you don't want others to focus on your gender, then the last thing you want to do is make an issue of your gender yourself."

She has been called the "Princess of Darkness." She shrugs that off.

It has been written that she wears only black and white, and often coordinates that day's black and white with Davis'. She laughs at that and says: "No, no. My wardrobe has plenty of colors. But take a look on the streets of Manhattan someday. You'll see lots of women wearing black."

On game day?

"That's different. That's Raider colors," she says.

She has stopped swearing.

"I'm not bothered at all by swear words, and I still slip," she says, "but I did that out of respect for the people with whom I interact who might be bothered."

She is patriotic, adventuresome. A few years ago, she got a ride from the California Air National Guard in the back seat of an F-16 fighter jet, got through the 7G forces, the low approaches and the upside-down tricks, but encountered the usual civilian trouble when the flight went through weightlessness.

"They nicknamed me Punch,"as in Hawaiian Punch, she says.

Shortly, another NFL season will be here, and everything else will take a back seat. If her wedding anniversary falls on a game day, she and her husband of 20 years, Rob, an investor and real estate developer, go to the game.

She is where she wants to be, and what. She is a football executive in the NFL. Period.

"What we all strive for," she says, "is when the word 'woman' is no longer a part of that sentence."

Times staff writer Sam Farmer contributed to this column.

Bill Dwyre can be reached at bill.dwyre@latimes.com. For previous columns, go to latimes.com/dwyre.

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