Al Davis, the managing partner of the Los Angeles Raiders, told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday that despite courtroom victories that enabled the Raiders to leave Oakland, he would be willing to abide by a committee decision on the case.
"I would take the nine senators on the Judiciary Committee," Davis said. "I'd bring in Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Although I've been before two tribunals already and I think we've won decisively in each, I would be willing to acquiesce with whatever decision you come up with."
Davis argued that rules governing franchise relocation should be based on equity, not "caprice and whim."
"I abide by the rules," he said, "especially if they are legal rules."
Testifying before Congress for the first time, Davis conceded that the shift had caused "an inequity and an injustice" to Oakland's football fans. But he said that limitations on the facilities in Oakland deprived him of $4 million to $5 million in revenues that other teams had and would ultimately put him at a competitive disadvantage.
He also said the Raiders lost $1 million last year.
Davis was one of several witnesses testifying about proposed antitrust exemption legislation that could return the Raiders to Oakland. A bill sponsored by Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), and supported by the NFL, would provide antitrust exemption for league rules governing franchise relocation and revenue sharing among clubs. A second bill, sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), would require football teams to demonstrate economic distress or inadequate stadiums as a precondition of moving.
Davis also said that the case could have been settled as recently as two months ago.
In testimony last week, David Cunningham, a Los Angeles city councilman, said NFL owners voted secretly last winter, 17-10, to approve a compromise settlement that would have permitted Davis to own an expansion team in Los Angeles. Other owners deny any such vote.
Davis said, "I don't know if it definitely went before the owners on a roll-call vote, but it went before them based on a straw poll."
Asked if he would have consented to staying in Oakland with the Raiders, Davis said: "If that was the decisive point, I would go along with it."