Now that Raiders owner Al Davis has lost his $1 billion lawsuit against the NFL, the next question is, What will the defeat cost him? His fellow owners pondered that issue for an hour on May 23 during their spring meetings in Chicago and will certainly continue discussing the matter in the future. Davis, the eternal maverick, has angered his peers before, but never to this extent.
During the case, in which Davis claimed the league undermined his plans for a Southern California stadium deal in 1995, confidential league documents that detailed the finances of each team were leaked to the Los Angeles Times. Steelers owner Dan Rooney and several others have made no secret of their belief that Davis gave the papers to the press. ( Davis has not commented on the accusation.) "It's not just the trial that was upsetting," says Rooney. "We're a league. We operate together. How you deal with people is important."
According to a rule enacted by the NFL in 1997, a team that sues the league and loses must pay court costs. So at the very least, Davis will need to foot the NFL's legal bill, which reportedly exceeds $10 million. Beyond that, commissioner Paul Tagliabue hinted Davis could be disciplined for conduct detrimental to the league, probably through a fine. A suspension, however, would be hard to justify based on precedent. In '99 Tagliabue suspended 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, but only after DeBartolo was implicated in illegal activities, namely failing to report extortion attempts by former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards.
The owners are contemplating another form of retribution: stripping Davis of his franchise. While that would be nearly impossible for legal reasons, the mere fact that such a drastic step was suggested reveals the depth of the anger toward Davis. "He may love the game, and he may love the sport," said Browns president Carmen Policy, "but he has no regard or appreciation for his partners in the league."