On matters of diversity, Al Davis led the way

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Long before the NFL felt compelled to force teams to interview at least one minority candidate for every head-coaching vacancy, late Raiders owner Al Davis was doing the right thing when it comes to matters of diversity, without having to be nudged in that direction.

In 1989, Davis hired Art Shell to coach the Raiders.  The move made Shell only the second African-American head coach in pro football, and the first in the modern era of the sport.  A decade before that, Davis hired Tom Flores, the first Hispanic coach in NFL history.

Perhaps almost as significantly, Davis installed — in a sport dominated by men — Amy Trask into the role of Chief Executive Officer.

Though the NFL often regarded as problematic the unique manner in which Al Davis advanced the interests of the Raiders (especially when litigation was involved), the league would have been much better off if the other owners had followed his lead before (ironically) fears of litigation required the NFL to create embarrassingly artificial regulations aimed at coercing billionaires to do the right thing.

35 responses to “On matters of diversity, Al Davis led the way

  1. Like I said earlier, a one of a kind, great man. If the world actually followed his truly color blind, gender blind approach to life instead of backhanded insulting or paying lip service to people different from them, this world would be a much better place.

    He loved his players, and he loved the Raiders. Celebrate the life of one of the greatest football owners of our time.

  2. I agree with you Mike. Davis always did it “his way” and what gets missed is that he wasn’t afraid to make decisions that most of the old NFL guard wouldn’t do as far as personnel in the front office, coaching staffs, and organization.

  3. I appreciate what Al Davis did for monorities (being one myself), but I wish the writers on this site could skip the leftist political commentary. I can find that anywhere.

  4. I know some people are going to start to complain soon that there is too much Al Davis coverage today, but I commend PFT on covering how impactful Coach Davis was.

  5. Every writer dogged him and dogged him for taking the fastest players and not good players. Now he dies and you want to send your respect his way?
    I have a soft spot in my heart for the Raiders and will always question moves that Al Davis made in the past decade. But don’t go from dogging the guy to sending him all sorts of praise. That’s just being two faced.

  6. RIP Al. As a Bills fan our teams faced off often and were rivals but respect should be given to a big contributor to the game and one of the most towering figures in the NFL.

  7. Other than possibly George Halas and Rooney Senior, I don’t believe there is another owner who really was a dedicated to his team and the game as much as he was.

    The rest of the owners come across strictly as in it for the money and ego.

  8. Mike, thanks for addressing this–Michael’s earlier post left out this important point. Let me add two things you didn’t mention:

    1) At a time when the NFL was racially segregated, Al Davis got the AFL to be more competetive with an personnel innovation: recruiting from HBCU’s.

    2) Al Davis broke the color barrier on offensive linemen with Art Shell and Gene Upshaw. Long before he hired Art Shell to break the modern era race ban on coaching, Davis showed that black football players were smart enough to play O-line.

  9. You have to take your hat off to Al. With one dramatic final act he changed his public image from crackpot leper to beloved icon. Stroke of genius. Or a stroke of some kind. Come to think of it we have to take our hats off around Al now in any case.

  10. As a Bronco fan, I thought I would drop in to pay mybrespects. I have never believed in stepping on a man’s grave. He did things as he saw fit, & I have no problem with that. Besides, his true judgment is not ours, & is upon him now. Rest in Peace Mr. Davis…

  11. Perhaps he hired Flores and Shell because they were quality coaches rather than minorities. Quality and competence transcend race irrespective of affirmative action and the rooney rule.

  12. txxxchief
    Obviously you don’t understand what Al Davis was about. Being a Raiders fan (and a minority – like that matters) show some respect for the man and what he did for the NFL we know today. R.I.P Al Davis

  13. I will miss his rambling and disjointed “woke up at 1600pt” press conferences.

  14. Why I’m a Raiders Fanatic……..

    Here’s a short grocery list.

    The Legend; The Lore

    The Nostalgia

    The Black Hole

    The Autumn Wind

    The Iconic Mister John Thomas Ralph Augustine James Facenda

    The Cult-Like ‘Nation

    7000 Coliseum Way Tailgating

    The Immaculate Deception

    The Heidi Game

    The Sea of Hands

    The Ghost to the Post

    The Holy Roller

    Red Right 88

    The Tuck Rule (Which I dub; “The Great Snow Heist”)

    Fat-Ass 400 LB. Anthony “The Goose” Siragusa intentionally pancaking the shoulder of (which he was fined for) Richard Joseph “The Cannon” Gannon at the 11:00 minute mark of the second quarter in the 2000 AFC Championship Game (“The Big Flop”)

    The Raiderettes

    The Yaaaiiiddahs!!!! (Mister Christopher James “Boomer” Berman-ESPN; NFL Primetime)

    The Player Personnel Assistant, The Assistant Coach, The Head Coach, The General Manager, The League Commissioner, The Principal Owner and Chief Executive Officer, The Esoteric, The Revered, The Incomparable Mister Allen R. “Al-Just Win Baby” Davis

    The All-Time Dreaded; “Silver & Black!!!”

    Subtotal; “Priceless!!!”

    Should I continue……..?

    Rest In Peace Al’

  15. A true original who gave us much of what we take for granted in the sport today.

    RIP Mr. Davis.

  16. canesfan56 says: Oct 8, 2011 2:22 PM

    Perhaps he hired Flores and Shell because they were quality coaches rather than minorities. Quality and competence transcend race irrespective of affirmative action and the rooney rule.
    Of course he did–that’s obvious. The significance of the act was that at that time, the rest of league ignored quality coaches because they were minorities–race ideas were transcending quality and competence.

  17. A couple more…he drafted a black quarterback in the first round…Eldridge Dickey…

    He also refused to play an exhibition game in the South because the players would have to stay in separate segregated hotels and the stadium restrooms were segregated…

  18. commandercornpone says:
    Oct 8, 2011 2:47 PM
    I will miss his rambling and disjointed “woke up at 1600pt” press conferences.

    Dude, hit rewind and rewatch one of his pressers. He was as lucid as ever. The Al might have started at 2pm, but he went until 2AM he was as sharp as a tack, in fact other than the “Lance” Kiffin snippet I can’t recall one mess up.

    Try that when you are 80.

  19. Al didn’t lead the way in diversity. He didn’t give a damn about a person’s gender, ethnicity or anything else as long as the person was a winner, dedicated to their profession and a hard worker. That’s the true nature of employment equity: hire those best able to do the job and forget everything else.

  20. Al was a business man. He understood the qualities of a person first and how they could help the organization be successful.

    I know that doesnt help the liberal cause du jour, but Al didnt need artifical regulations forcing him to choose people based on their race.

    And I bet he laughed in private when someone was referred as “African”-American.

    Libs like to the claim the mantle of equality, but truth be told, they are the most divisive people around.

  21. It didn’t matter what color your skin was or where you came from, Al wanted you if you could help him win.

    His major flaw was believing too much in people. I can’t believe there is anyone who can say, “Al didn’t give me enough time to prove myself.”

    Put his face on the helmet!

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