Expect to see Amy Trask working in another sports organization whenever she wants back into the business. NFL headquarters might even find a place for the former Raiders CEO, who resigned on Saturday. That idea would have been inconceivable 15 years ago, when the Raiders still considered filing lawsuits as integral to football as running wind sprints.
As a Raiders executive for 25 years, Trask managed to be an Al Davis loyalist and yet become a conduit to the world outside the team’s cone of paranoid delusion. It took a while. Like most of Davis’ staff, she originally acted as if the Raiders didn’t need to explain themselves to the public, and didn’t need to sell their product.
But a few years after the team moved back from Los Angeles to Oakland, where poor attendance persisted, Trask thawed toward the media and became a smarter, more professional advocate. Asked a question, she’d provide actual information, a rare commodity in the Raiders’ headquarters. It was skewed information, to be sure, but it beat the baseless rhetoric of the Silver and Black true believers. She knew how to conflict with reporters without cutting off communications. This is an elementary skill for anyone in the public eye, but most Raiders employees never mastered it. They mimicked Al Davis, who abstained from compromise.
Trask could bring him around by a few degrees on business issues. In Davis’ later years, as he became more eccentric and immobile, Trask had to keep the franchise from going over a cliff. She couldn’t expect to influence him on football matters. Nobody could. But she could contain the damage by moving the club somewhere near the 21st century in other areas.
In 2005, Trask took charge of ticket sales in place of the balky agency set up by the municipal board that oversaw the Coliseum. The agency, established in 1995, had been a case study in ineptitude. If you called to inquire about tickets, you might end up on hold for 20 minutes, then be disconnected.
The team remains a terrible draw and regular target of NFL blackouts, largely because the football has been dreadful. But in 2011, when the Raiders went 8-8 for the second year in a row, they met the NFL definition of a sellout for every home game, appearing on local TV each week. It was the first blackout-free season since the return to Oakland. Even in the exhilarating years under Jon Gruden and in 2002, when the team went to the Super Bowl, the Raiders could not manage eight regular-season home sellouts.
In the summer of 2011, when a chaotic Raiders-49ers preseason game in San Francisco yielded two shootings and a restroom assault that put a man in the hospital, the NFL sent its security chief, Jeffrey Miller, to the Bay Area. When he attended the next game at Candlestick Park, Miller praised the Raiders, and Trask in particular, for having already upgraded the fan experience at the Coliseum in a way that reduced the chance of violence.
A few weeks later, Al Davis died. He was Trask’s patron, making her the most powerful female executive in the NFL who was not part of the ownership’s family. At times, though, he treated her like a daughter, but it was pretty clear that Davis’ only child and heir, Mark, did not see her as a sister.
In the transition to Mark’s ownership, several old-time Raiders employees have been pushed aside, in what amounted to more of a cobweb cleaning than a purge. Trask stayed for 19 months, ostensibly working on efforts toward a new stadium, her influence diminished. She was the old guard, and her departure always seemed inevitable.
Her devotion to Al Davis didn’t waver, and future employers should appreciate that. Their biggest doubt should be whether she can adjust to a more functional organization.