By ELIZABETH HAYES
Clad in a Raiders sweatshirt and cap, Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden summoned reporters to the Memorial Coliseum last week and insisted that Raiders owner Al Davis wanted to return the NFL team to L.A.
"We go to the same gym, Mr. Davis and I," Holden said. "Al Davis really wants to be in L.A."
But there was just one problem with Holden's press conference: Davis was nowhere in sight.
"I'd be very, very surprised (if the Raiders came back)," said Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan. "But if they come back, they better have a better owner and show more respect for the city."
Raiders officials did not return calls seeking comment, but one team official told a Bay Area newspaper the team is not looking to leave its current home in Oakland.
During the Raiders' tenure in L.A. from 1982 to 1994, Davis frequently threatened to move the team once taking a non-refundable, $10 million deposit from the city of Irwindale to move the team there.
Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Sports Franchise, which has been trying to find an NFL team for the Coliseum, said he could find no evidence to support Holden's contention that Davis wants to come back.
Holden, however, said Davis is willing to play at the Coliseum if it is upgraded with luxury boxes as now planned.
Davis filed a $200 million lawsuit against the NFL in 1996, claiming that L.A. is still his territory and the league forced him out by sabotaging a 1995 stadium deal at Hollywood Park.
Holden said he believes Davis will win his lawsuit.
But even if he does win, that does not afford him the opportunity to move to L.A., said Deena McClain, general counsel for the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Authority. "He has a 13-year agreement with us," she said.
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