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Tagliabue testifies that the NFL owes Raiders nothing

Team suing for a billion dollars for move to Oakland

LOS ANGELES — The Oakland Raiders gave up any claim to the lucrative Los Angeles market when the team returned to Oakland in 1995.

That was NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue's opinion during the first day of testimony in the football team's billion-dollar lawsuit.

The action accuses the NFL of driving the Raiders out of Southern California by wrecking a deal for a new stadium, then refusing to reimburse the team for the money it lost by moving to a smaller market.

"When the Raiders came down to L.A., we paid for the market," Raiders attorney Joseph Alioto said during the trial's opening statements in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday. "The NFL refused to pay for it when they left, even though they did so for other teams in the past."

The team has said it wants $1 billion in compensatory damages and an unspecified amount of punitive damages.

But Tagliabue, the first witness to testify after the trial's opening statements, said the league owed the Raiders nothing.

"Once the Raiders moved their league franchise to Oakland, they owned nothing in Los Angeles, according to the league bylaws and constitution," he told the jury of eight men and four women.

He and NFL lawyer Allen Ruby also denied that the league ever had a history of reimbursing teams for moving to smaller markets, although it did pay $500,000 when the Chicago Cardinals went to St. Louis in 1960.

"That was the only time in the modern era of the league that this type of payment has ever been made," Tagliabue said.

No such payment was made when the Chargers moved from Los Angeles to San Diego and the Rams moved from Anaheim to St. Louis, Ruby said.

The suit also claims the league interfered with the Raiders' plans to move from the Los Angeles Coliseum to a proposed new stadium in nearby Inglewood in 1995. The Raiders, having arrived in Los Angeles from Oakland in 1982, moved back shortly after the stadium deal fell through.

In his opening statement, Alioto said the NFL treated the Raiders unfairly by ordering that the team share the stadium with a second franchise. He said that was just one of many examples of how the league treated the Raiders differently than other teams.

But Ruby said the Raiders never committed to do their part in building the new stadium.

"The Raiders had meetings, but commit themselves? Never," he said.

He also said the NFL actually tried to help the team move to a proposed stadium adjacent to the Hollywood Park horse track.

Ruby told jurors the league offered the Raiders at least two Super Bowls and 10,000 extra tickets to those games to entice potential buyers of luxury suites. It also offered to waive an estimated $7.5 million fee from club seat sales that normally would be shared with the NFL, the lawyer said.

Outside court, Raiders owner Al Davis refused to comment on whether the franchise wants to return to Los Angeles, saying the focus should be on the NFL's past treatment of the team.

"There's no question we should be paid," he said. "The only question is the number."