This past Saturday professional football lost a great pioneer in Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders. Mr. Davis was the “butt” of many jokes and was deemed insignificant for the last several years but he should be regarded as one of the forefathers of how modern day football is played. Al Davis, Massachusetts born and Brooklyn raised bled Silver and Black, the colors that the Raiders don. He first was affiliated with the team in 1963, serving as its head coach. He served in that position for two years, being named American Football League Coach of the Year in 1963. He would go on to serve general manager, owner, and AFL Commissioner. He was instrumental in forming the merging AFL and National Football League although he believed that if they remained separate that the AFL would be a superior league. He would resign as commissioner on April 25th, 1966.
Shortly after resigning as AFL Commissioner, Davis would buy his way back into the Raider Organization. They would win one AFL Championship before the merge with the NFL in 1970. The Raiders would have continued success in the NFL, winning Super Bowl’s in 1976, 1980, and 1983. However, in my opinion this was not his greatest accomplishment. Many do not know that Davis was a champion for civil rights and diversity. In 1963, the Raiders were scheduled to play a pre-season game in Mobile, Alabama. Due to the strict segregation laws at the time, Davis refused to play the game and demanded that the game be played in Oakland. He also refused to let the AFL All-Star Game be played in New Orleans for the same reason in 1965. He was instrumental in having the game moved to Houston.
Al Davis ignored the race of a person when it came to hiring. He was the first owner to hire a Black Head Coach, Art Shell, in the modern era and a Latino Head Coach in Tom Flores. Gender was also not a deterrent as he promoted Amy Trask to chief executive. Al Davis may have let the game pass him by in some ways, but he was all about the “Silver and Black”. His slogan “Commitment to Excellence” did not discriminate against people based on the color of their skin and he is owed a debt of gratitude for that.
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