A trial scheduled to begin Monday to determine whether the Oakland Raiders can defy the National Football League and move the franchise to the Los Angeles Coliseum has been postponed for at least seven weeks.
Harry Pregerson, the presiding federal judge, said yesterday he was setting a new trial date of March 23. "It is clear that this case is not ready to begin trial in five days." The trial will take place in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
The Super Bowl champion Raiders, along with the Coliseum, filed the antitrust action against the NFL.
Al Davis, Raider managing general partner, is challenging the NFL constitution that states new franchises cannot be established within a 75-mile radius of an existing franchise. Other NFL owners have opposed Davis' plan.
The Los Angeles Rams moved last year from the Coliseum to Anaheim in Orange County, which falls within a 75-mile area.
Pregerson, who has sought a settlement from the time the suit was filed, said yesterday, "The court remains convinced that the most advantageous means of resolving this dispute for all concerned would be though settlement."
Allowing that "It does not now seem that settlement is within our grasp," the judge said, "The court remains optimistic that it is not unreachable, either."
Among the matters unresolved is a motion by the league to have the trial moved from Los Angeles, where there has been a great deal of publicity.
Most of what has been nasty publicity apparently has been generated by Davis. At one point, he suggested in a statement filed with the court, then leaked to friendly reporters, that NFL Commissioner Peter Rozelle had been involved in scalping tickets to the Super Bowl.
Attorneys for both sides don't share the judge's view that a settlement is within reach.
An attorney for the Coliseum said that the sides are poles apart and that there is no hope of settlement.
Jay Moyer, NFL general counsel, said in New York: "I think the judge is doing everything he can to forge a settlement.But I don't think it can be done consistent with all the interests of the parties as they've been stated."
Moyer added, "I wouldn't want to see a continuation of settlement discussions get in the way of a speedy trial."