Leland Stein III

Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

Al Davis – Mr Raider

In sports column, Uncategorized on October 23, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Davis broke barriers, believed in inclusion.

By Leland Stein III

Al (Mr. D) Davis a maverick, revolutionary, icon, innovator, and most of all, a shatter of the good-old-boy business as usual NFL starting in the 1960’s to his passing recently at age 82.

I owe my inclusion in the professional sporting world to Mr. D. As a fledging writer for a respected African-America owned newspaper, that did not have a sportswriter, I perused every sports entity in Southern California for an opportunity to bring the sports news to our readers.

USC, UCLA, the Rams, Lakers and Clippers all said in unison, send me some clips and we will look at whether we will credential you or not. I had no clips.

Then a miracle happened for me. I wrote a column about the NCAA and the Black Coaches Association’s (BCA) confrontation concerning the implementation of Prop. 48 in 1986, an NCAA regulation that stipulated minimum high school grades and standardized test scores that student-athletes must meet to get a scholarship.

Now I agree that there had to be a standard and BCA did too, no one was saying a complete idiot should be allowed in college, but the standard should have been use to find out where a potential student/athlete was and used as inclusion and not exclusion, based on the background of many of these young men.

The column I wrote after going to Chicago to interview all the BCA coaches talked about how the NCAA’s so-called good intentions would have a discriminatory impact and reduce opportunities for many. Men like John Thompson and John Chaney knew they could take the marginal kid and through their guidance and influence, coach them up.

The column I wrote went national and I sent it to Davis for him to read. He wrote me back and noted that he understood what Thompson and Chaney were about in trying to get the NCAA to understand their position concerning inclusion.

Through Davis, Raiders executive assistant Al LoCasale gave me my first professional sports credential. From there I wrote and wrote and got clips that we used to get inclusion from the Rams, UCLA, USC, the Clippers and Lakers.

When the Raiders left Los Angeles to go back to Oakland in 1995, LoCasale and Dave made sure that I had season credential for the Raiders. My camera man and I covered every Raiders home game for six consecutive years.

My first Super Bowl covered as a journalist was Super Bowl XXVII at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California where the Raiders were the host team and Davis and LoCasale made sure we got credentialed through the NFL. We have not missed a Super Bowl since that day.

I’m sure that since we were representing an African-American newspaper Davis made sure we got access, just because he could push the envelope. His outreach to me and my newspaper was nothing new. Davis was always out on the fringes of what the ruling gentry pushed out as the way to do business.

Davis breached several barriers in relations to civil rights and diversity during his career with the Raiders. In 1963, the Raiders were scheduled to play a preseason game in Mobile, Alabama. Due to segregation laws in that city, Davis demanded the game be moved to Oakland. In 1965 an AFL All-Star game was scheduled in New Orleans. He again refused to let the game be played there because of the racial barriers present.

When it came to hiring, Davis was colorblind. He was the first NFL owner to hire an African American head coach, Art Shell and the first to hire a Latino head coach, Tom Flores. He also promoted a woman Amy Trask to chief executive.

Sure the Raiders fell on hard time recently, but five trips to the Super Bowl and coming away with three titles cannot be minimized. “Just Win, Baby” and “Commitment to Excellence” are monikers that Davis coined and are etched in football folklore.

I’m not sure why Davis took a liking to me, I never asked in our many conversations, but his passing leaves a giant silver and black hole in my personal space. He believed in inclusion and he stepped on professed and superficial barriers to make sure it changed on his watch.

 Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII