An attorney for Al Davis, the Oakland Raiders' managing partner, today pressed his client's claim that in October 1978 Davis had obtained an oral agreement from National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle to move the team to Los Angeles.
Armed with a cryptically worded memo about a team owners' meeting in Chicago on Oct. 4 and 5, 1978, attorney Joseph Alioto tried unsuccessfully to get Rozelle to acknowledge such an agreement.
Rozelle claimed he did not even hear of Davis' plans to move to Los Angeles until more than a year later.
Davis and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission have accused the NFL and others of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act by blocking the Raiders from moving to the Coliseum.
Rozelle, who has been on the witness stand for six hours during the trial, will return to the stand Tuesday when the trial resumes in U.S. District Court here.
At the end of today's session, Judge Harry Pregerson spoke privately with Davis and his attorney. Afterward, Alioto said that Pregerson was continuing his longtime effort to settle the case. The attorney said, however, that he saw no progress.
The memo of the October 1978 meeting was written by Robert Schulman, a Washington tax attorney who often represents the Redskins at league meetings. At that meeting, the owners charged the league constitution to say that a team would be allowed to move if the proposal received the approval of three-quarters of the other 27 owners, instead of by a unanimous vote.
The change in the constitution followed a suit against the NFL by the Los Angeles Coliseum, which was seeking a team to replace the Rams, who had announced that year they were moving to Anaheim. The Raiders joined the suit in March 1980 after the NFL blocked them from moving to the Coliseum.
The owners wanted to change the NFL constitution because, the memo makes clear, they did not think that they could defend the "unanimous" provision if the Colisuem's suit was tried in court.
"Rozelle feels strongly -- three-quarters would be less offensive than unanimous vote," the Schulman memo states.
But Davis chose to "pass" on the vote.
Davis claims that the reason he decided to "pass" instead of voting against the constitutional change -- which needed a unanimous vote for adoption (a judge ruled at a pretrial hearing that Rozelle had the right to construe the 27-0-1 vote as unanimous) -- is because Rozelle agreed to let him move his team to Los Angeles, without the approval of the owners, in exchange for his abstention.
Alioto today repeatedly quizzed Rozelle about the wording of the memo in the meeting, continually rephrasing his questions.
Finally, Alioto asked Rozelle if Davis had changed his vote on the constitutional question from "no" to "pass" because he had been promised he could move from Oakland.
"Absolutely not," shouted the normally controlled Rozelle