National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle said today the fact that the Oakland Raiders are playin in the Super Bowl Sunday "makes it all the more unconscionable to have the franchise leave the city of Oakland."
Rozelle spent a good portion of his annual Super Bowl press conference today discussing the lawsuit filed by Raider owner Al Davis, who has challenged the NFL's constitution and the league's right to block him from moving his team from Oakland to the Los Angeles Coliseum.
"They have been through winning seasons and losing seasons," Rozelle said. " . . . They have had 12 straight years of sellouts. The community and the team have been together and they have developed a Super Bowl team, and that just makes it all the more unconscionable to say, 'Arrivederci, Oakland.'"
The highly publicized case is scheduled to go to trial Feb. 9 in a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Rozelle admitted today he thought it would be unlikely that a compromise agreement could be reached before then. He also indicated the league is trying to get a change of venue, to a more neutral site.
Rozelle said if Davis does with his suit, he feels it would have a very damaging effect on the NFL. "As long as 28 clubs can keep together, things will work well," he said. "When somebody who has agreed to accept the rules originally comes back 10 years later and says, 'I don't like this rule, it's illegal,' that can be very serious. Our league is very unique. Not one cent can a team make without the other teams in the league. Yes, I feel we would have anarchy."
Rozelle was asked how he would feel personally if the Raiders beat the Eagles Sunday, and he had to present the Super Bowl Trophy to Davis.
"It makes no difference to me," he said. "It I give that trophy to Al Davis, it will be a tribute to Al for the fine job he's done in putting the team together, to Tom Flores for a fine coaching job and to the Raider players . . . It is a dedicated football team that deserves to be here."
Rozelle, giving what he described as a "public deposition" today before 500 members of the media, also was asked about Davis' court deposition saying that Rozelle was involved in tichet scalping before the Super Bowl last year in the Rose Bowl.
"It hurts me because I care about my integrity," Rozelle said. "I have never scalped a ticket. That hurts me greatly. Right now, I have a business obligation to defend the lawsuit. Later on, I will leave any action I may or may not take to my personal attorney."
In response to other questions on league matters, Rozelle said:
He has urged the teams to scout the colleges for promising black assistant coaches and front office personnel as vigorously as they scout potential players.
The league will soon consider expanding to two new cities, probably after the next collective bargaining agreement is reached with the players' union. Cities being considered include Memphis, Jacksonville, Birmingham, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Phoenix. If Davis wins the right to move, Oakland also would be considered. He also would prefer not to realign the current division structure.
Controlling the scalping of Super Bowl tickets again will be taken up by club owners in March. "It's extremely difficult," Rozelle said. "You can make your initial (ticket) allotment to a monastery, but you can't control where they go after that."
He does not know what position the NFL Management Council will take in labor negotiations with the Players Association, but that he disagrees with union leader Ed Garvey's assertion that team owners are more concerned about profits then winning.