Raiders- Oakland rumors fly

June 22, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

Take your choice.

Al Davis, the maverick owner of the Los Angeles Raiders, is close to moving back to the Oakland, Calif., home he left 13 years ago, or he's using his former coach, John Madden, to give him leverage in his talks with Los Angeles officials.

Madden, the Fox-TV announcer who still is close to Davis, sent shock waves throughout the NFL yesterday when he said in a radio report that Davis had decided to return to Oakland. The Associated Press later quoted a source as saying Davis' return to Oakland was a "done deal."

Davis, though, quickly denied that he had made up his mind.

"I don't know what's going on, so help me God," Davis said. "Everyone's doing a lot of things. This went on two weeks ago."

He was referring to the news conference that Hollywood Park officials called on June 10 when they thought Davis had decided to make a deal to play at a proposed stadium at the racetrack.

But Davis, who was at the track that day, didn't attend the news conference, and R. D. Hubbard, the director of the track, simply announced the track had made its best offer to Davis and it was up to him to decide whether to take it.

Like the Hollywood Park officials, Madden apparently got the idea from Davis that he had made up his mind -- this time to go back to Oakland.

Although Davis could have been using Madden to get Hollywood Park to sweeten the deal, there's also a possibility that Davis simply can't make up his mind, but is leaning toward Oakland.

In any case, nobody except Madden was saying on the record that Davis has decided what to do.

A spokesman for Hollywood Park said, "We don't know a thing."

Joe Browne, an NFL spokesman, said, "We have not been told Al Davis has made a decision at this point."

Pat Bowlen, the owner of the Denver Broncos and a member of a three-man committee that helped negotiate the Hollywood Park deal with the NFL, said in a statement, "Nobody knows what Al Davis is going to do."

Steve Ortmayer, who recently left the team to become the director of football operations for the St. Louis Rams, said he thinks Davis will stay put. "Every indication I have is that the guy is staying in Los Angeles and will be playing in the Los Angeles Coliseum this year."

Davis' decision could have an impact on Baltimore's attempt to lure an NFL team here to replace the Colts, who left for Indianapolis in 1984. If Davis returns to Oakland, the league will try to persuade an existing team to move to the nation's second-largest market.

If the Cincinnati Bengals decide not to come to Baltimore, other teams who are unhappy with their stadium deals -- such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cleveland Browns -- could decide to bypass Baltimore for Los Angeles.

Mike Brown, the owner of the Bengals who visited Baltimore a week ago, told the owners at a meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., last month that he has no interest in Los Angeles.

In choosing between Oakland and Los Angeles, Davis apparently is torn between short-term or long-term gain.

On a long-term basis, he could be better off in a new stadium at Hollywood Park than at the Oakland Coliseum, which is supposed to get $85 million in renovations, including 175 luxury boxes if he moves back.

But the Hollywood Park stadium wouldn't be completed before 1997 -- if then -- so Davis will be stuck playing in the aging Los Angeles Coliseum for two or three years if he takes that deal.

Davis, who'll turn 66 on July 4, has told friends he thinks he has a better chance of winning the Super Bowl this year if he plays in Oakland in front of sellout crowds with a passion for the team. He doesn't feel he has a home-field advantage playing in front of sparse crowds at the Coliseum.

NFL officials, who lost a court fight when they attempted to stop Davis from moving from Oakland in 1982, aren't expected to give him any opposition if he decides to move back.

But the San Francisco 49ers have indicated they'll try to get a relocation fee from Davis if he again tries to share the Bay area with them.

Carmen Policy, the president of the San Francisco 49ers, wouldn't elaborate on what action he'll take if Davis does try to move back.

Even if Davis does announce he's returning to Oakland, there's no guarantee he'll actually play there.

He's announced deals in the last decade to play in a proposed stadium in Irwindale, Calif., and to return to Oakland, but both deals eventually fell apart and he remained in L.A.

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