Dan Rooney, president of the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, said yesterday that the Oakland Raiders' defiance of National Football League regulations in signing to move to Los Angeles could mean that "we may not have a League."
"It is very serious," Rooney said after reporting on a special meeting of chief-executives of the National Football League Monday in Dallas.
Rooney described Al Davis, managing general partner of the Raiders, as "a little mad" when he was asked to leave the meeting room for a while.
"He did not yell or scream, but he didn't like to leave. Then he said, after the reason was explained to him, that he didn't know about that being the usual procedure when opposite sides in litigation met.
"The rest of the meeting was not real emotional, which it could have been and could be next week when we meet again in Palm Springs," said Rooney from San Diego.
No vote was taken by the league members, Rooney pointed out, "because he (Davis) is not asking for a vote; at least he didn't. He claims he is moving (with or without a vote of approval)." Under NFL regulations, 21 of the 28 teams must approve any franchise shift.
"I think if he had come to the league, say, around Super Bowl week and had said he wanted to move, and had gone through the history of his stadium negotiations, he might have made it.
"Now, that's down the drain. Now, we may not have a league. We will have a legal problem whether he goes to Los Angeles or stays in Oakland.
"If we vote to approve a shift to Los Angeles, there is a suit by Oakland authorities. If we don't vote approval of a shift to Los Angeles, that city's authorities has its suit against us.
"The league's bylaws can be likened to the Ten Commandments: you can't have one team saying it likes certan ones, but not others.
"You can't have one team saying, 'I'm going to have 60 players instead of 45.' You can't have a team saying it's not going to pay the visiting team the usual 40 percent of the gate receipts, and so forth. If a court says a team can move without a vote of approval by the league, it's the same thing. Others may decide to move."
NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle has been quoted as saying Oakland could be dropped from the schedules of other teams. "If that happened Rooney wondered, "where would the other teams in the AFC West Division play? What would the courts do?"
Rozelle appointed a fact-finding committee at Monday's meeting and remarked, "The basic concern of the owners is the protection of the bylaws of the NFL constitution." He went on "Obviously, strong steps could be taken if the league chooses to do so to avert conduct detrimental to the league."
Another source reported Davis as saying, when he was asked to leave the meeting room: "If you didn't want me here, why did you invite me?"
That was after Davis was asked if he had anything to say and replied, "Not at this time."
When Davis was permitted back in the session, he reportedly "cooled down" and "made some good points" about why he decided to move, including a "mind-boggling offer" from Los Angeles.
The source said other NFL owners were not so much concerned about Davis' plan to move as about whether the league has the right to govern itself without interference by courts.