National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle denied repeatedly today that Georgia Rosenbloom Frontiere, owner of the Los Angeles Rams, had tried in 1978-79 to get him to stop the Oakland Raiders from moving to Los Angeles because she feared competition for her team.
Rozelle was questioned by Raider attorney Joseph Alioto, who was trying to establish his client's contention that Rozelle and Frontiere conspired to keep the Raiders from moving to the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Mel H. Irwin, a former employe of the Rosenblooms, said he had heard taped conversations that his employer had with Commissioner Rozelle. He said that he had heard Rozelle assure her on several occasions that she should not worry about the Raiders moving to Los Angeles, that he had enough votes from other NFL owners to block such a move.
Irwin's deposition said Frontiere was upset by newspaper talk about the planned move of the Raiders. It said she became greatly agitated at a 1979 exhibition game between the Raiders and the Rams when someone in the Coliseum produced a sign reading: "Welcome home Los Angeles Raiders."
Rozelle admitted Frontiere telephoned him in New York to complain about the sign, but would not concede she said at the time she opposed the move of the Raiders.
At one point, Rozelle said, "She was disturbed about them coming here and going on pay TV. I never heard Mrs. Frontiere say she was afraid of the competition. That's a buzz word used in this case."
Irwin described Frontiere as extremely unsure of herself, often secretly recording conversations on several tape recorders spotted around the house. At one point, said Irwin, the house was checked for telephone taps.
While the trial proceeded, at U.S. District Court here, negotiators today continued to seek an out-of-court solution.
There was an indication that the nine-member Coliseum Commission, which is a coplaintiff in the case with the Raiders, may be ready to listen to settlement suggestions.
One negotiator claimed that a letter from Rozelle offering an expansion team for the Coliseum might be enough for the commission to abandon its support of Raider managing partner Al Davis.
In his testimony today, Rozelle noted that a Los Ange;es official had approached him in 1978 seeking an expansion team after the Rams had announced they were moving to Anaheim. Rozelle testified that he told the official Los Angeles could be considered for another team in the future but that it was then too soon for futher expansion of the league since new franchises had been established in Tampa and Seattle.
Several negotiators said that Rozelle is currently too involved preparing for his daily testimony to take part in settlement efforts. Rozelle is expected to be on the stand for several more days.
On Wednesday, one commissioner, Peter Schabarum, broke with his eight fellow commissioners, declaring that there was "no logical or legal reason" for going ahead with the lawsuit.
But the commissioner who negotiated the deal with Davis, William Robertson, has shown no signs wavering.