Davis' suit cites Modell, 'conspiracy' Says NFL forced Raiders from Southern California

March 02, 1996|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, whose fight to move his team to Los Angeles 16 years ago cleared the way for all subsequent franchise moves, is suing the NFL again, saying the league -- with help from Baltimore team owner Art Modell -- forced him out of Southern California.

The suit seeks more than $200 million and alleges a murky conspiracy of league officials and team owners to queer the Raiders' negotiations to get a new stadium built near Los Angeles in conjunction with the Hollywood Park racetrack.

Davis alleges that rival team owners and league officials, including commissioner Paul Tagliabue, extracted information about the deal and his talks with Baltimore, changed their demands and strung the Raiders along to "wrest control of the potentially lucrative Raiders-Hollywood Park project, and thereby the Los Angeles market."

Modell is singled out several times in the 44-page suit, filed Tuesday in Santa Clara County, Calif.

Fleshing out charges he made publicly at the NFL owners meetings earlier this year, when the NFL approved -- with Davis ** abstaining -- the move of Modell's team to Baltimore, Davis accused Modell of using his position as a league insider to get an inside track on Baltimore or Los Angeles.

"For example, and unknown at the time to the Raiders, even as Modell was using his position on the Finance Committee to extract information from the Raiders concerning the Baltimore stadium opportunity, he was actively considering relocating his team to Baltimore," according to the lawsuit.

The suit says that after the Raiders moved to Oakland, Calif., last August, Modell spent "approximately 10 clandestine days in Los Angeles trying to seize that opportunity for himself, with the assistance of Tagliabue."

Modell has acknowledged that he looked at relocating to Los Angeles last year, but determined there was not an adequate stadium plan in place and came to Baltimore instead.

"Given this group's own self-interest, double-dealing and clandestine behavior, Tagliabue and the NFL were perpetuating a sham by using this group to evaluate the Raiders-Hollywood Park opportunity and other relocation opportunities," the suit alleges.

Including Modell, three of the seven members of committee since have announced they are planning to move their teams and another is pursuing possible relocation. But all but the most recent, the Seahawks, have gone to cities other than Los Angeles.

Seahawks owner Ken Behring and team president David Behring met with Hollywood Park owner R. D. Hubbard on Thursday, and toured the Hollywood Park site, according to published reports. The league has not approved the move and the city of Seattle has sued to stop it.

Modell spokesman Kevin Byrne said yesterday, "For Al Davis to be any part of a lawsuit is not unusual. This is another one that the NFL will have to deal with."

The league's actions resulted in the collapse of the Hollywood Park talks and forced the Raiders to move back to Oakland, Davis alleges. The Raiders, after considering moving to Baltimore, signed a letter of intent to move to Oakland on June 23. The team was born there in 1959, but announced it was moving to Los Angeles in 1980.

The relocation became official two years later when Davis won a seminal antitrust lawsuit forcing the league to pay him millions of dollars in damages and to let him move the team. The case was argued by the same attorney filing last week's case, former San Francisco mayor Joseph Alioto.

Shepard Goldfein, an attorney representing the NFL, said the case is largely an expansion of earlier suits the Raiders filed but have since divided into separate federal and state court actions.

"The league believes the Raiders' case has no merit," Goldfein said.

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