Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis — whose motto for the team was “just win, baby” — passed away on Saturday (October 8). He was 82.
According to reports, the NFL Hall of Famer died at his home in Oakland. However, the cause of death was unknown at press time.
“The Oakland Raiders are deeply saddened by the passing of Al Davis,” the team said in a statement. “Al Davis was unique, a maverick, a giant among giants, a true legend among legends, the brightest star among stars, a hero, a mentor, a friend.”
Davis’ history in professional football runs deep. He took control of the team in the early 1970s, and has looked back. In the 1980s, he went to court — and won — for the right to move the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles. Even after he moved the Raiders back to the Bay Area in 1995, he sued for $1.2 billion to establish that he still owned the rights to the L.A. market, reports ESPN.
But before the NFL and the Raiders, he was a pivotal figure in hastening the merger between the AFL — where he served as commissioner — and the more established NFL. Although Davis was not initially in favor of a merger, his aggressive pursuit of NFL players for the AFL helped bring about the eventual 1970 combination of the two leagues … and today, it’s into what is now the most popular sport in the country.
“Al Davis’s passion for football and his influence on the game were extraordinary,” commissioner Roger Goodell said. “He defined the Raiders and contributed to pro football at every level. The respect he commanded was evident in the way that people listened carefully every time he spoke. He is a true legend of the game whose impact and legacy will forever be part of the NFL.”
Under Davis’ control, the Raiders became one of the most successful teams in all of professional sports. From 1967 to 1985, the team won 13 division championships, one AFL championship (1967), three Super Bowls (XI, XV, and XVIII) and made 15 playoff appearances. In recent years they haven’t done so well, going 37–91 from 2003 to 2010. However, they are one of two teams to play in the Super Bowl in four different decades, with the other being the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Along with appearing in five Super Bowls, the Raiders have also played in their Conference/League Championship Game in every decade since their inception.
In 1992, Davis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a Team and League Administrator, during a ceremony Canton, Ohio, where John Madden presented him with the honor.
Davis is survived by his wife, Carol, and son Mark, who Davis had said would run the team after his death.