Al Davis, the managing partner of the Oakland Raiders, said today it is "totally untrue" that he set out to embarrass the National Football League and Ken Stabler by cooperating with reporters doing a story that linked the quarterback to a crime-family gambler.
Tex Schramm, president of the Dallas Cowboys, and Ladd Herzeg, general manager of the Houston Oilers, characterized the New York Times' story as a Davis machination designed to irritate the NFL office and hurt Stabler, now the Oilers' quarterback after a decade with Davis.
In Wednesday's Washington Post, Herzeg was quoted as saying the Times' story of Sunday "would not have been printed" without supporting quotes from Davis. But Davis today said he did not speak to the Times' reporters on the story until midnight Friday. "They had been on the story six weeks, they said, and they were already done with it," Davis said. "My quotes were added."
Joe Vecchione, sports editor of the Times, confirmed that and said, "The Washington Post story was not quite accurate. Obviously, the New York Times was not used by Al Davis. It was not his story, it was our investigative story . . . The New York Times does not act as a front for anybody."
Davis said he tried to stay out of the story, although he said his executive assistant, Al LoCosale, talked to reporters Friday afternoon.
"I was aware of the association," Davis said, meaning Stabler's relationship with Nicholas Dudich of Perth Amboy, N.J., identified by the Times as a member of a New Jersey organized-crime family. "I had discussed it with Stabler personally. But if I could stay out of the story, I'd like to."
Davis said he would not comment on Stabler's association with Dudich other than to reiterate that the Raiders notified the league office at least 15 times. As to a report that Stabler told the NFL no one with the Raiders ever discussed Dudich with him face to face, Davis said, "That's Stabler's version."
Recounting his part in the story, Davis said, "When the reporters called me at midnight, they said they were reporting that the Dudich association was one reason I traded Stabler. I was very vehement and denied it. LoCosale told them, 'On a scale of A to Z, his association would be Z.' They reported it as a factor, anyway. Listen, Kenny Stabler was a great player for us, and we're proud of his achievements with us, but I couldn't deny the association or reporting it. That's the extent of my contribution to their story."
Later, Davis said he didn't know why such a big deal is being made of the story and why everyone thinks he's behind it. "What I want to know is this: I don't know what guilt is. Is he guilty just because he's been associating with a gambler? In this day and age? You'd have to get Jimmy the Greek off television, wouldn't you?"
Davis added, "I'd just as soon the whole thing hadn't come up."