Sports

Raiders owner, NFL pioneer Al Davis dies at 82

Raiders owner, NFL pioneer Al Davis dies at 82 Click to Enlarge Photo:

Oct 8, 2011 at 10:14 am

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Al Davis, the Hall of Fame owner of the Oakland Raiders known for his rebellious spirit, has died.

The team announced his death at age 82 on Saturday.

It was not immediately clear when and where he died.

It was Davis' willingness to buck the establishment that helped turn the NFL into THE establishment in sports — the most successful sports league in American history.

Davis was charming, cantankerous and compassionate — a man who when his wife suffered a serious heart attack in the 1970s moved into her hospital room. But he was best known as a rebel, a man who established a team whose silver-and-black colors and pirate logo symbolized his attitude toward authority, both on the field and off.

Davis was one of the most important figures in NFL history. That was most evident during the 1980s when he fought in court — and won — for the right to move his team from Oakland to Los Angeles. Even after he moved them back to the Bay Area in 1995, he went to court, suing for $1.2 billion to establish that he still owned the rights to the L.A. market.

Until the decline of the Raiders into a perennial loser in the first decade of the 21st century he was a winner, the man who as a coach, then owner-general manager-de facto coach, established what he called "the team of the decades" based on another slogan: "commitment to excellence." And the Raiders were excellent, winning three Super Bowls during the 1970s and 1980s and contending almost every other season — an organization filled with castoffs and troublemakers who turned into trouble for opponents.

Davis, elected in 1992 to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, also was a trailblazer. He hired the first black head coach of the modern era — Art Shell in 1988. He hired the first Latino coach, Tom Flores; and the first woman CEO, Amy Trask. And he was infallibly loyal to his players and officials: to be a Raider was to be a Raider for life.

But it was his rebellious spirit, that willingness to buck the establishment, that helped turn the NFL into THE establishment in sports — the most successful sports league in American history. He was the last commissioner of the American Football league and led it on personnel forays that helped force a merger that turned the expanded NFL into the colossus it remains.

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