Al Davis, the managing general partner of the Los Angeles Raiders, said last night he has evidence to take legal action against the National Football League to stop a trade that sent Baltimore's No. 1 pick in last week's college draft, John Elway, to the Denver Broncos.
Early this morning, the Broncos announced they had acquired Elway from the Colts. They said Elway had signed a series of five one-year contracts.
Davis' latest legal maneuvering came only hours after he announced he would pursue a suit expected to be filed in Los Angeles federal court today against the NFL for $57 million in damages. Last month, the Raiders and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum were awarded almost $49 million in winning a federal suit in Los Angeles against the NFL, which was found to have violated antitrust laws by blocking the Raiders' move from Oakland in 1980.
In a telephone interview last night, Davis charged the NFL with "negating our deal to acquire Elway" last week, "pushing him" to Denver.
Davis said the league blocked a transaction that would have had the Raiders acquiring a number of high draft picks from the Chicago Bears and subsequently trading them to the Colts for the rights to Elway.
"The NFL negated our commitments for getting Elway," Davis said.
Joe Browne, director of information for the NFL, called Davis' accusations "totally false. The league in no way interfered in any fashion." Browne said the NFL would have no comment regarding the damage suit until attorneys have had the opportunity to review the legal papers.
Jim Finks, general manager of the Bears, also denied Davis' scenario, saying "There's not a shred of truth to these charges."
At the Broncos press conference, Elway said he was "definitely thrilled to be here. It was something I did not expect to happen," the Stanford quarterback said.
"So far, not one thing that I expected to happen happened. But I'll go out and give 100 percent. I'm glad to be playing in the NFL and I'm glad to be playing for the Denver Broncos."
The Colts received offensive lineman Chris Hinton of Northwestern, the fourth player picked in this year draft, third-year quarterback Mark Herrmann and the Broncos' 1984 first-round draft pick.
Edgar Kaiser, owner of the Broncos, said Elway was signed to a series of five one-year contracts, but would not disclose the financial arrangement.
"The trade was good for both teams," said Denver Coach Dan Reeves. "They (the Colts) were happy with what they got and we were happy with what we got."
Elway, an all-America, is also a top baseball prospect. He hit .318 in a six-week stay last summer with the New York Yankees' minor league team in Oneonta, N.Y.
He had said before last week's NFL draft that he would not play for Baltimore, but the Colts, unable to come up with a suitable deal, selected him anyway as the No. 1 pick overall.
In the latest lawsuit, the Raiders allege the NFL and the Los Angeles law firm of O'Melveny and Myers "obstructed justice" by failing to disclose there was alleged false testimony during last month's damage phase of their antitrust trial.
Raiders' attorney Joseph L. Alioto charged that James Hardy, general manager of the Los Angeles Coliseum, perjured himself as a league witness.
Hardy testified, according to Alioto, on April 5 that he had not been in contact recently with NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.
"But approximately three weeks before Rozelle appeared in court, there was a meeting between Rozelle and Neal Papiano," said Alioto, at a news conference in the Raiders' El Segundo, Calif., offices.
"In chambers, they (NFL attorneys) admitted that it was Hardy who brought Papiano to Rozelle and presented him."
An attorney for Hollywood Park race track, Papiano was head of a group seeking an NFL expansion franchise in Los Angeles, despite the fact the Raiders were playing in the Coliseum for the 1982 season, Alioto said. He charged that it was known that Hardy and John Ferraro, a Los Angeles city councilman, would have been part owners of the franchise.
Hardy, a former quarterback with the Los Angeles Rams, was not named as a codefendant in the new Raiders' lawsuit. Named were the league, 24 member teams and the involved attorneys.
The lawsuit, other than charging obstruction of justice, accuses the league of withholding $700,000 that allegedly belongs to the Raiders, and spending it "to help finance litigation and massive lobbying efforts" against the Raiders.
The Raiders also are asking for more than $2.5 million in damages caused in 1983 by NFL antitrust violations.