When the announcement was officially made that the NFL owners had unanimously agreed to the proposed agreement they set forth to the players to solve the current labor situation and end the NFL Lockout, most fans were left scratching their head at the odd number. After all, the league as 32 teams, so why were the reports coming in that the vote was 31-0? The reason was that Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis officially abstained.
A quick perusal of blogs, sports news sites and fan comments displayed several insults against the storied owner — an icon whose team has experienced a tremendous amount of drama and success over the last few decades. It’s an easy shot to take when aiming at Al Davis, so this just seemed another odd chapter in an already eerie story. But this isn’t a surface story of Al Davis being Al Davis. In fact, it’s a genius move that just might pay off for the owners in about two weeks.
Raiders spokesman Mike Taylor spoke to Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk with the following statement from Raiders CEO Amy Trask, “We have profound philosophical differences on a number of issues — both of a football and economic nature. We have consistently expressed our views on these matters to the League. We voted in the manner we believe best for football and with the courage of our convictions.”
Think about what this does for the Raiders. Currently the players are expressing everything from cautious optimism to confusion to anger via their Twitter accounts. The enemy at this point is a group of owners trying to strongarm them into a bad deal for the next decade via a public relations war that everyone is commenting on in real time. Legions of NFL fans are watching at every turn. And the players are left looking like the bad guys.
But one owner isn’t playing. One owner abstained. That owner, at the very least, didn’t vote yes — even if he didn’t vote no. And that owner will not be seen as “one of them.” It’s that last line that makes all of the difference.
By abstaining, the Raiders are now painted with a different brush in the eyes of the players. They aren’t lumped in with the deceitful greedy owners that the players have to view the rest as. Instead, the Raiders now come across as sympathetic to the cause of the players — whether that’s the reality behind the abstention or not.
There’s no way to tell in concrete terms whether or not this will make a difference in the upcoming free agent period — that is, unless a player comes out and says, “I wanted to play for the Raiders because I hate the other owners.” That’s unlikely to happen. Yet it can’t hurt for Davis to distance himself from the vitriol sure to be spewed toward the rest of the NFL’s upper crust. In a scenario where even the commissioner is in bed with the owners, imagine just how appealing Al Davis looks when taking a step aside and saying a simple, “No comment.”
My guess is that Davis reaps something of a reward in all of this — that at the very least, the players are thankful for one owner who has an issue with the way today’s agreement went down. He’s easy to laugh at or poke fun of, but in this instance, Al Davis is the one owner who comes out looking good.