A Los Angeles City Councilman told a Senate committee yesterday that National Football League owners voted, 17-10, in a secret ballot last winter to approve a compromise settlement in the Oakland Raiders case that would have permitted the team's managing partner, Al Davis, to own an expansion team in Los Angeles.
But the owners were talked out of the plan by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, said Councilman David Cunningham, and voted, 27-0, to follow Rozelle's recommendation to fight Davis' antitrust lawsuit.
Asked how he knew of the vote, Cunningham said, "NFL sources."
Reached at his New York office, Rozelle denied Cunningham's story. "There was never any discussion about Davis having the franchise. I didn't try to talk them out of anything," he said.
In May, a federal court jury in Los Angeles ruled in Davis' favor, clearing the way for the Raiders to move to Los Angeles.
Yesterday on Capitol Hill, the NFL's bid for a retroactive antitrust exemption that could return the Raiders to Oakland was opposed by ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell and Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D-Del.).
But the effort, which also includes an antitrust exemption for the NFL's present revenue sharing, won the endorsement of the mayors of Baltimore and Phoenix, the National Hockey League and others.
At issue in yesterday's hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee were two bills dealing with the relocation of professional sports franchises. One, sponsored by Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), would provide antitrust exemption for league rules governing franchise relocation and revenue sharing among clubs.
The other, by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) would cover only football and would require teams to demonstrate economic distress or inadequate stadiums as a precondition of moving.
The DeConcini bill, which the NFL is backing, would negate the jury's decision in the Raiders' lawsuit.
Biden said that if this bill is enacted, "Why shouldn't we pass a law saying no corporation can leave a city where it has been doing a profitable business for six years or more?"
Cosell, in voicing opposition, cited the history of professional sports teams moving in the last 25 years.