"I knew I was making a scene, but I didn't care. Because part of me knows that if the situation were reversed, if I were the one on the sidelines in street clothes, I would've done the same thing James Trapp did."
If there's any doubt whether Trask was born to be a lawyer—and, for that matter, a Raider—consider this story from her childhood: One afternoon young Amy and a classmate chased the dogcatcher's van up Mandeville Canyon Road, in L.A.'s affluent Brentwood district. When the van stopped, she proceeded to tell the man how mean and insensitive he was for caging the canines.
Trask says she struggled with "behavioral problems" in grade and middle school: "Basically, I just spoke my mind." She morphed into a model student at Palisades High, which was a great relief to her mother, a lifelong educator, and her father, an engineer who at 77 remains a consultant in the aerospace and defense industries. Amy, the youngest of three children, graduated from Cal in '82 and enrolled in law school at USC that fall. She considered it her great fortune that the Raiders, with whom she had "fallen in love" during her time in the East Bay, made their move to the L.A. Coliseum at precisely the same time, triggering years of litigation against the NFL.
In law school she was "the ultimate guy chick—a warm, bubbly, friendly woman you could go to the game with," says agent Jerome Stanley, who befriended Amy and her future husband, fellow student Rob Trask, while attending USC.
Remember the scene in There's Something About Mary when Cameron Diaz asks Ben Stiller at the end of their date, "Hey, you want to go upstairs and watch SportsCenter?" The fictional Mary has nothing on Trask. On the day she and Rob wed in December '85 the bride delayed the start of the ceremony because the Raiders' game against the Broncos had gone into overtime. Not that the groom was complaining: "Hey," says Rob, "the guys and I were watching the finish in my room, too." (The outcome: Raiders win; let the wedding begin.)
In 1987, after two years at an L.A. law firm, Trask got a call from Raiders legal counsel Jeff Birren, who offered her a job in the team's legal department. She accepted on the spot, then made a quick impression on Davis with the tenacity she displayed during the team's perpetual legal battles as well as her eagerness to learn about all aspects of the organization. By 1992 Davis was sending her to league meetings, where she often was the only woman in the room. At Trask's first meeting one owner began his response to one of her comments by addressing her as "girlie."
"The fact that she is attractive and was young when she came in lent itself to people underestimating her resolve," says Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. "But she can certainly hold her own in any conversation about running a football team."
There was no denying Trask's intelligence—"Everybody has insecurities," she says, "but one thing I've never been insecure about is my brain"—and her audacity stood out even more. Trask's defining moment came at that '97 league meeting in which she tangled with two of the league's biggest power brokers. After Policy attacked the Raiders, she rebutted his comments, and Policy fired back. Tagliabue then tried to end the sniping, but Trask wouldn't yield. Four times he told her the subject was closed, and four times she demanded to speak. Finally Tagliabue, who declined to be interviewed for this story, snapped, "Make it brief." Says Birren, who was in the room, "Wild horses couldn't have kept her from speaking."
That observation is one to which Trask can relate. She has been riding horses since she was 10, performing in jumping competitions until about seven years ago. She still rides her thoroughbred, Championship Game, on a recreational basis. "You achieve an almost telepathic communication with the animal," Trask says, "like you don't know where the horse ends and you begin."
That's nearly the same phrase used by a former NFL executive, who says of Trask, "You just don't know where she stops and Al begins. My impression of her is that her veins run ice-cold water." Like Davis, Trask is viewed by many of her peers as a contentious, destructive force—a "Princess of Darkness," as the same ex-league official jokes. Indeed, two sources interviewed for this story suggested that Trask "drank the Kool-Aid" in assessing her almost cultlike loyalty to Davis. "She really used to be a nice chick; it's amazing," Stanley says. "She's not mean to me, but I know a lot of people in league circles who think she's heavy-handed. It's like she's been Raiderized, turned into a Raider assassin."