Al Davis: Rebel, Innovator, Advocate for Minorities and Women, Dead at 82

It’s safe to say that Al Davis place in the historic annals of the former AFL and the current NFL are secure. Davis realized early on that every man and woman for that matter deserved an opportunity – sometimes more than one. Davis made  it his life’s work to offer chances to those that others had given up on or had been shunned all together. Al Davis unwavering commitment to Black and other minority athletes in the 1960’s is only rivaled by that of former Boston Celtics owner Red Auerbach.

And for that, we are grateful.

Tom Flores was the first Hispanic player to play under center in the AFL/NFL, Flores was a backup to Len Dawson, who led the Kansas City Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl IV.  A decade later Flores would coach another castoff in quarterback in Jim Plunkett who was of Native American descent to a Super Bowl XV victory over the favored Philadelphia Eagles. Three years later Flores and Plunkett would do it again to what was at the time the most potent offense in NFL history. The Raiders would shut down the Washington Redskins attack to win Super Bowl XVIII in what Al Davis called, “The Raiders finest hour.”

The mystique of the Oakland Raiders (they should never be called anything but) has been built with the blood and guts of minorities and women. Aside from hiring Flores in 1979, Davis hired the first African-American coach of the modern era in At Shell in 1989 while the Raiders were in Los Angeles. Shell was brought back to coach in 2006, when the Raiders returned to Oakland.

In 1997, Davis hired Amy Trask making her the first and currently only female CEO in the NFL.

The foundation of the Raiders is built on an “Us against the world” mindset. Davis’ injected that philosophy into his players – many of whom were castoffs that were considered too risky or too old by league standards. Davis took this mixed bag and transformed it into three Super Bowl Championships. Along the way Davis brought a vertical aerial offensive attack coupled with an aggressive maniacal defense that left many an opposition laying horizontal. Many of those players became Super Bowl MVPs league MVPs and Hall of Famers.

Jason Campbell is one those castoffs that Davis saw plenty of potential in. Upon trading for Campbell last season, Davis likened Campbell to Jim Plunkett, a former number one selection that never saw his potential in New England or San Francisco but upon his arrival in Oakland his career was resurrected and resulted in a Super Bowl victory. Campbell is coached by Hue Jackson, the second African-American coach in team history. Jackson is expected to build on the success of a Raiders team that finished 8-8 last season.

If the autumn wind is truly a Raider, it has taken the greatest of them all.

6 Responses to “Al Davis: Rebel, Innovator, Advocate for Minorities and Women, Dead at 82”

  1. Temple3 says:


    I’ve always liked the Raiders. Not as much as I liked the Steelers, but damned close. The Raiders were the ONLY team that was as consistently physical, tough, aggressive, aerial, artistic and awesome as the Steelers. And they had their own theme music. “The Autumn Wind,” which so poetically reference is the single best piece of music ever written for any franchise. It is the quintessential work of Facenda and Spence.

    The league’s dispute with the Raiders and treatment of some of their elite players tells you all you need to know about the “traditional” powers of the league. The Raiders had more years in the Top 10, offensively, than any team in league history. Flores — not in the Hall. 2 Super Bowl wins with the highest playoff win percentage of any coach not named Lombardi. Ray Guy — not in the Hall. Jim Plunkett — not in the Hall. 2 Super Bowl wins. Ken Stabler — not in the Hall. Tim Brown — not in the Hall.

    Two things that Al did which I didn’t appreciate were dicking Marcus Allen around and firing Art Shell. People have no idea how much Marcus Allen could have done in this league.
    Look at his numbers. ONE SEASON with over 300 carries — and he set a long-standing record for yards from scrimmage. Guys like Emmit and Walter and all the other legends had about 35% more carries PER GAME…and Marcus STILL had 12,000+ yards and 123 touchdowns. Frankly, there is no telling what Marcus Allen might have done to NFL record books.

  2. Ron Glover says:

    @Temple, I remember emulating Willie Brown’s slo-motion shoulder shrugging run to glory in Super Bowl XI and cried myself to sleep after the beat the Eagles in Super Bowl XV. But I’ve always kept an eye on the Raiders as a kid the only four o’clock game was the Raiders against somebody on NBC.

    That feud with Marcus Allen was as ugly as you’ll see between an owner and a player. And he went to the Chiefs just to spite Davis and stick it to him twice a year. I agree on your comments about Allen’s potential numbers.

    Facenda and Spence were tailor made for the ‘Autumn Wind’ when I first purchased ‘The Power and the Glory’ it was the first track that I played. Awesome stuff. I’ll be pulling for the Oakland Raiders the rest of the way.

  3. Temple3 says:

    NFLN said Al Davis has presented 9 men for induction into the Hall, more than anyone else.

    The stories that are going to come out now will be great. Willie Brown played for the Broncos before he played for the Raiders. He said after one game, Davis came up to him and said that the Raiders would trade for him one day. They shook hands and Brown says Davis passed him a $50 bill. Brown became a Raider and a legend…

  4. Ron Glover says:

    Warren Sapp said he and Davis talked about many things, but never the Buccaneers Super Bowl XXXVII victory over the Raiders.

  5. Ron Glover says:

    Mike Ditka talked about how in 1969 Al Davis offered him $100,000 and a $50,000 signing bonus to play with the Raiders. He told Ditka that no mattered what happened to keep the $50,000.

  6. Origin says:

    RIP Mr. Davis.