Before I left for the Super Bowl in the Bay Area, I was tracking down people to interview for a Roger Goodell feature. One person I really wanted to chat with was former Oakland Raiders CEO and current CBS analyst Amy Trask.
If you are unfamiliar with Amy, this article says it all.
Unfortunately, our schedules did not allow for us to meet face to face during Super Bowl week so she was kind enough to give me 45 minutes of her time for a phone interview from her home in Los Angeles.
If you follow Trask on Twitter, you’ll know she is very engaging and informative. And she is exactly the same on the phone. Here’s just a sample of the topics I discussed with her.
ON WHETHER THE RAIDERS ARE GOING TO STAY IN OAKLAND
I don’t know. If I knew the answer I would tell you. The team has articulated the desire to stay in Oakland. But I’m an adherent to the theory that one should judge actions and not words.
So while ownership was articulating the desire to stay in Oakland, the team was focused for roughly a year on Los Angeles. [For that reason] I understand why there is frustration in Oakland. If you really meant what you said, that you want to stay in Oakland, why are you spending vast sums of money to achieve something in Carson? Why aren’t you doing that in Oakland? And I think those are fair questions.
Do I think the team will end up in Oakland? I think there’s a fair chance if everybody is willing to compromise.
There’s an expression in business: “We have to sit across from one another and negotiate.” I don’t adhere to that philosophy.
The Raiders, the A’s and the municipalities need to sit not across from one another but beside one another—they need to collaborate rather than negotiate.
ON ONE SOLUTION FOR OAKLAND’S STADIUM PROBLEM
I was advocating this when I was back with the team (Trask stepped down in May of 2013), and I’ve labelled it—and I’ve taken a ton of wonderful teasing as I should—”the petite stadium.”
In this day and age where people are finding it less enticing to go to a stadium and [want] to stay home instead, why not build a sensational stadium that’s in the 40,000–45,000 range? And because it’s going to be half the size or two thirds of the size of most stadiums, you can have so much more technological capability in it.
Let’s say every seat is like an armchair and it swivels. So if you are sitting on the 10-yard line and you want to see what’s going on at the other end of the field, you just swivel your chair.
And why not have a tablet built into the seat in front of every seat? So if you want to call up a replay I just call it up on the tablet in front of me. Or I order food from the tablet or I order merchandise brought to my seat.
People have responded to me and said, “But, Amy, the prices are going to go up because on a supply-and-demand theory you’ll have less seats.”
They don’t need to in all regards because you are going to be chopping off a quarter of a billion dollars or more in construction costs. And I’m going to have a couple of luxury-suite areas that are solely for people that want to play fantasy football.
ON INTERNATIONAL GROWTH
We see the league’s interest in London. I think London poses tremendous logistical challenges. An example of one, every Tuesday of the season teams bring in a handful of free agents and look at them for filling holes in the roster. Well, you’re not going to fly a free agent who’s living in California to London—you’re not going to fly any free agents to London.
Someone said, “What if a team that is playing in London had a base ops on the eastern seaboard?” So when you want to look at a free agent you bring the free agent in and you Skype.
But Skype doesn’t allow the head coach or the trainer or the offensive or defensive coordinator or the team physician to walk out on the field and actually talk to that player. So that’s a challenge.
I think Mexico is a very intriguing possibility for international expansion and I think Canada is. Those are the two that are sort of obvious to me because you eliminate a tremendous amount of those logistical challenges.
ON THE SAFETY OF THE GAME
I do believe the NFL is committed to making the game as safe as possible and people do raise an eyebrow when I say that. All one needs to do is look at the league. The owners want this game to thrive and they understand for the game to thrive and the league to thrive, they have to do what they can to make the game as safe as possible.
But saying that someone is going to make the game as safe as possible doesn’t mean in all regards it is safe.
ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SARAH THOMAS AND KATHRYN SMITH BEING HIRED AS THE FIRST FULL-TIME FEMALE REF AND COACH THE LAST TWO YEARS
It is significant. With respect to each of those women it certainly appears to me they have gone about their careers as one hopes anyone would go about their career. They’ve done their jobs and they have advanced to a point now where we do have a woman who is a quality-control coach and a woman who is an official.
What’s really going to be significant is when it’s no longer significant when a business hires someone without regard to race, gender, ethnicity, religion or age. In other words, when a business hires someone without regard to any of those characteristics, which are utterly irrelevant to whether one can do a job or not—that’s going to be the most significant moment.
ON IF THERE ARE ENOUGH OPEN-MINDED INDIVIDUALS IN THE NFL FOR THESE TYPES OF HIRES TO BECOME THE NORM
Al Davis (former Raiders owner who hired Trask as his CEO) was certainly decades ahead of his time. I joined the club as an intern in the mid-’80s and I was hired in 1987. But you know, look, Jeanne Bonk is a CFO and EVP down in San Diego with the Chargers, she’s got a huge role there. Hannah Gordon was just named general counsel of the San Francisco 49ers.
So one can hope as time marches on we’re going to see more people hiring without regard to any of those irrelevant characteristics.