Raiders owner Al Davis Picked Battles, Amy Trask Won Them
Almost all NFL owners have a successful business background which earned them the funds to buy a football team. Or they inherited the team or the money to buy the team from their wealthy parents. That was not Al Davis. He was a football guy who owned a team. His passion for football – not business – led him to this. He was an assistant coach, head coach, general manager, commissioner before becoming a team owner.
Davis had football sense, but Trask brought business and legal sense to his reign. That’s not to say Davis wasn’t business savvy, I believe he was, but I’m just stating their primary strengths. An owner who battled the law needed a lawyer by his side. They were the perfect match. The man who is carved into the Mount Rushmore of the NFL, now had someone with potential to become a legend in the business of football, like he had with the sport of football.
One of the biggest challenges working in sports is dealing with relocation. Especially when you think of the city politics and lucrative contracts that were being discussed in the late ‘80s with the Raiders – like Al Davis owning the Sacramento Kings of the NBA as part of a relocation deal. Again, this is 1987. The Los Angeles Raiders are looking at both Sacramento and Irwindale, California to build a new stadium. One of Trask’s first duties on the job was handling a slew of lawsuits from the Irwindale relocation that never happened.
Eventually, they would find their new home, which was their old home. The Raiders moved back to Oakland in 1995, and it is well-known and well-documented that Trask was a driving force to making that deal happen.
Trask told ESPN in 2011, that Davis encouraged her never-ending pursuit of knowledge and that only five years into the job, she was sent to her first league meeting which meant battling with billionaire owners on many league issues. So, at 31 years old, she had a seat at the table. She was a voice for an NFL franchise.
Many league meetings later, her career progression peaked in 1997, when a 36-year-old Amy Trask was named CEO of the Oakland Raiders.
In an interview with Inc. Magazine in 2018, Trask reminisced about one particular league meeting when Davis wasn’t there. An owner from another team had shared thoughts which she found to be troubling for the Raiders. So she stood up and talked into the microphone to voice her opinion. After only a few words, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue interrupted her, saying it was time to move on. But she didn’t. She boldly remained at the microphone and kept talking until she was finished. She made points that she believed she needed to make on behalf of the Raiders. It’s a safe assumption that most team CEOs would not stand up to the league commissioner like that, even in a respectful yet stern nature like she had. But she always put the Raiders first, and in doing so, the sport of football was better for it.
And that is just one, small example of her impact on the sport. An unwavering determination to stand her ground for the betterment of the Raiders and the league. Mike Silver once wrote a profile about her for Sports Illustrated, saying that Trask is a “younger, sharper, meaner version of Al, with a law degree."
"She not only seemed well-versed on legal issues, but she seemed to have a pretty good grasp of football," Davis said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle published in 2001. "She was dealing in some areas where she would have to deal with me and she was also holding her own with some high-profile-type lawyers such as Joe Alioto (former mayor of San Francisco who counseled the Raiders win against the City of Oakland) and Moses Laskey (a prominent San Francisco trial lawyer whose clients included the Oakland Raiders)."
Davis trusted her. Just think about the lawsuits Davis went through during this time. And imagine the incalculable time Trask had dedicated to fighting these battles. Some of you remember these lawsuits, some of you have heard the stories. In 1989, the NFL settled with the Raiders for $18 million over a decade-long relocation dispute. In 1991, future Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen sued the Raiders to become a free agent due to a feud with Davis. In 2001, Davis sued the NFL for $1.2 billion claiming they forced him out of LA and that the Raiders should’ve retained the rights to the LA market. I’m sure there are more – documented and undocumented – and I’m sure Trask was a warrior in each.
The Raiders fan turned Raiders intern turned Raiders CEO was trusted by Raider Nation too. Fans embraced her leadership, calling her the "Princess of Darkness". She was the right person in the right organization at the right time.