The feud between Oakland Raider owner Al Davis Jr. and the National Football League turned to open warfare yesterday with a report that Davis has accused NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and Los Angeles Ram owner Georgia Rosenbloom Frontiere of scalping Super Bowl tickets.
The allegations were made public yesterday in a story in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. The story was based on a deposition Davis gave recently in a suit over the NFL's ban on his planned move of the Raiders to Los Angeles. Davis declined to talk with a reporter about evidence to back up the charges.
Rozelle and Ram officials immediately issued denials and, in an interview in his New York office, Rozelle detailed what he said were legitimate personal dealings with one ticket agency official.
Sources familiar with Davis' testimony -- which hasn't been filed publicly yet -- said it contained charges that Mrs. Frontiere and Dominic Frontiere (they were not married then) sold several thousand tickets to last January's Super Bowl in Pasadena to ticket brokers at scalpers' prices, and that Rozelle personally had received money from the sale of Super Bowl tickets. The story did not make clear how Rozelle supposedly profited.
The 1980 Super Bowl between the Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers was played in the Rose Bowl before 104,000 fans. The Rams' share of tickets -- 22.5 percent -- totaled about 27,000, most of which went to season ticket holders, according to team officials.
One West Coast travel agency executive said his company paid more than $100 each for Super Bowl tickes it bought from individuals. By game time on Jan. 20, end zone seats were selling for $250 each and 40-yard line seats for $350, according to stories on the event.
An NFL spokesman said yesterday that the league office gets 15 percent of the total number of game tickets to sell to player and alumni associations, sponsors and media representatives.
In the interview yesterday afternoon, Rozelle flatly denied any involvement in a scalping scheme. He said his only connection with any ticket broker was a personal friendship with Don Ross, who is affiliated with the "Ask Mr. Foster" travel agency.
Rozelle said, for example, that he sent Ross 16 tickets for his personal use at the last Super Bowl and received a check for $480 from the agency to pay for them. Rozelle said the money went to the league. He said he did pass on to team owners a request from Ross to tell their season ticket owners that "Ask Mr. Foster" could provide travel arrangements to the 1978 Super Bowl.
In an earlier statement, Rozelle said, "The only testimony suggesting that I sold Super Bowl tickets for personal profits has come from Al Davis. This ridiculous contention is totally untrue."
He noted in the statement that Davis cited Melvin Durslag, A Herald-Examiner sports columnist, as a source "for the rumor." Rozelle also said he regretted that some parties in the suit "are resorting to fallacious character assassination on matters not even relevant to the litigation."
In the interview with The Washington Post, Rozelle read from part of the Davis deposition, in which the Raider owner said Durslag had told him that Peter Ueberroth, former chairman of "Ask Mr. Foster's" parent company, had gotten tickets from the NFL. Ueberroth is now chairman of the organizing committee for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Rozelle said he met Ueberroth for the first time at a Sports Illustrated magazine business meeting in California a few months ago.
Rozelle aides refused to say whether the league was investigating the possibility of ticket scalping by the Ram owners.
Don Klosterman, general manager of the Rams, said last night that he wasn't aware of any investigation of his team's distribution of Super Bowl tickets.
Durslag said in a phone interview last night that he was not the source of any rumor that Rozelle personally profited from selling Super Bowl tickets. He did confirm that he told Davis that Ueberroth recently told him that he had "good luck getting tickets from the league office when he was in the travel business." Ueberroth could not be reached for comment.