Thanks Al Davis From The Raider Nation
My first phone call was to my father who traveled many Sundays up Highway 101 with my brothers or his friend Denny to Oakland Raiders home games. Daddy didn’t immediately answer, so I was left looking for someone who would understand this news. A young woman in a Cal Berkeley sweatshirt walked into the gym locker room. Never have I, a Stanford Cardinal, been so happy to see a Bear. She was from Piedmont so I told her, “Al Davis died this morning.”
If you only remember Mr. Davis for the likes of the JaMarcus Russell experiment, then you can’t comprehend why I as an African-American female sports lover/businesswoman love the legacy of Al Davis. He was the first to hire a minority head coach (Tom Flores), the first to hire a Black head coach in the modern day NFL (Art Shell) and the first to appoint a female in the role of CEO (Amy Trask.) In his personal commitment to excellence, he simply wanted the best – not the best stereotypical CEO or coach.
Those decisions weren’t short social experiments for Mr. Davis. In 1963, the Oakland Raiders were set to play the New York Jets in Memphis, Tennessee. In that city, blacks and whites couldn’t stay in the same hotel, so Davis was told he’d need to book two locations. Al being Al said screw that and moved the game to Oakland. He would make a similar decision a few years later, opting to move a game to Texas for the same reason.
Ice Cube: “He taught the NFL how to be colorblind on the sideline.”
If you play Madden football, understand that you’d have a different sports icon on that cover had it not been for Al who took a young coach and gave him a spot on the bench at 33 years young – unheard of then. If you watch today’s NFL head coaches like Mike Tomlin, Raheem Morris and of course Hue Jackson pace the field with head coach’s nervous swagger, then you understand Davis’s critical selection of Shell that opened a door behind which stood capable, competent men ready for the challenge of leadership.
As a woman who loves the game, I applaud Mr. Davis for believing that a female could actually know how to work in the league at such a high level. Appointing Trask as CEO drew curious glances, but it again provides an entranceway for up-and-coming sports loving women who live the game, too.
When I finally reached my Dad, we chatted and wondered what's next for our team. Neither of us ducked our head in the sand about recent unconventonal moves by the Raider leadership, but that didn't change how we felt about the team.
To this day, my reverence for my Raiders remains strong. While I suffer the losses and shake my head at many management decisions, I understood that sometimes Al chose his team based on his steadfast faith in a person, unwavering in his support even when the court of public opinion screamed of his foolishness. We fans often cringed on draft day, but it never, ever made us leave the Raider Nation. With a shrug we donned the silver and black, grabbed a drink and screamed for every hard fought first down. You see, we’re The Nation. And Al, we already miss you.