(Amy Trask photo courtesy of the Oakland Raiders)
It couldn’t have been easy working for Oakland Raiders’ owner Al Davis for nearly three decades, but former Raiders’ executive Amy Trask not only did it; she cherished the experience, calling it “a privilege to have worked for Al and the organization.”
Trask, who became the team’s chief executive before resigning in 2013 and who today works for the CBS Sports Network as an analyst and panelist, gave an insider’s look at the Raiders on the Talk of Fame Network’s latest broadcast – and what she revealed was that working with and for Davis was not the hardship outsiders perceived it to be.
“I was never intimidated by Al,” said Trask, who kicks off our month-long salute to women in the NFL as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “I do understand that Al intimidated many people. I do understand there’s an aura of intimidation that people do associate with Al. I never experienced that.
“From my perspective and, based on my experience, I can tell you the No. 1 misconception about Al is that he wouldn’t tolerate or abide any disagreement. If disagreeing with him and arguing with him were unacceptable to him, I would’ve been fired less than one month into my job.
“I’d been there only two or three weeks when I was in a meeting, and he came in and I shared with him, quite forcefully, that I believed he was wrong. And we yelled and we screamed and he cussed … but the fact is after this disagreement at one point he looked at me and said, ‘OK, I got it. I got it.’ And that was that.
“That man set up the paradigm for an almost 30-year relationship of working with one another. I did disagree with Al when I believed it was appropriate and, frankly, that was quite often. But what I learned was you don’t simply disagree. You explain why you disagree. You back your disagreements in the best manner you can … and you make a decision and then move on.”
Trask, who can now be seen Sundays on “That Other Pregame Show” on the CBS Sports Network, was something of a pioneer in the NFL, rising from an intern in the Raiders’ legal department in the 1980s to an executive position when the NFL had precious few women in executive roles – at least women who weren’t part of team ownership.
It’s to the Raiders’ credit that they were ahead of the curve there … as they were with the hiring of the first Hispanic head coach (Tom Flores) and the first African-American head coach (Art Shell). But Trask makes it clear she never saw herself as a pathfinder nor considered gender an issue that played a role in the execution of her job.
“People look at me quizically when I say this, but it’s the honest to goodness truth: I never spent one moment thinking about my gender,” she said. “I did my job. It always struck me as counter-intuitive for me to think about my gender while wanting others to disregard my gender.
“I never walked into a league owners’ meeting or a meeting in the league office or meetings with bankers or business partners thinking I’m a woman or thinking about my gender. Because it strikes me as very silly for a woman to do that if the last thing she wants is for anyone with whom she’s interacting to think about her gender.
“The world was a lot different in the ‘80s and ‘90s when Al took me to the first owners’ meeting … there was a very, very noticeable silence when the meeting convened, and people realized I was taking that seat right next to Al Davis. That room grew very, very quiet.
“I certainly wasn’t concerned about it. Number one, I was walking in the room behind Al Davis, and I figured he was going to be a pretty good fullback for me. And,, number two, why should I worry about it? What value is there for me in wasting one moment of my time worrying about whether others are bothered by my gender? They want to worry about it … let them worry about it.”