The importance of sports in society reaches far beyond TV ratings and beer sales. Never forget that many of life’s lessons are taught through sports. More importantly sports have been instrumental in affecting change in society. Perhaps no one has done more to affect radical change in the sports world than Al Davis.
Say what you will of the maverick but his philosophies, hiring practices and equal opportunity ideals helped to turn the tide not only in the sports world but in society as well.
Proving that his legacy will be long reaching well beyond his years on this planet, Al Davis is set to receive the Paul “Tank” Younger Award this Friday in Indianapolis. Accepting the award on Al’s behalf will be his son and current owner of the Oakland Raiders Mark Davis.
The Younger Award recognizes Mr. Davis’ commitment to racial and gender diversity. Tank Younger was the NFL’s first African-American executive so it is only fitting for Davis, who has done so much for the advancement of underrepresented groups, is still seen as an icon for diversity.
In the weeks following the sudden passing of Davis there was no shortage of stories shared regarding interactions with the iconic owner. Most telling of all was how often you heard tales of his deeds done off the field. Never mind that Davis found success at all levels of football, the majority of the Davis tales were centered on his willingness to give opportunities to those that would have otherwise never had the chance. Even more telling was that more often than not those individuals he gave chances to were more than qualified and delivered on the opportunity Davis presented.
Beyond race, sex and ethnicity, Davis also had no issues with age. Age was nothing but a number to Al. From John Madden to Jon Gruden, Davis saw talent first and foremost. Same for Tom Flores and Art Shell. Even in this modern era Davis was still at the forefront of advancement. Davis elevated Amy Trask to the highest ranking position held by a woman in all of football as one of his last acts of advancement.
For Mark Davis the last 10 months have been a whirlwind. In addition to all that comes with the death of parent, Mark is also trying to reshape the Raiders. While we’re sure to hear plenty of speculation regarding the relationship between Mark and his father in the coming years this award represents a lasting legacy that transcends the sports world. Mark Davis might be out to do things much differently than his father but I’m willing to bet this award symbolizes a tradition that will forever remain the foundation of the Oakland Raiders.