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Mark Davis’ role in Raiders’ fight against the league shines in ESPN film ‘Al Davis vs the NFL’

Ken Rodgers, director of the latest “30 for 30” documentary, tells us why Mark Davis is an underrated part of the puzzle

Pete Rozelle Handing Trophy to Al Davis
Al Davis, Pete Rozelle

There will likely never be a movie made about Mark Davis’ relationship with Roger Goodell and that’s a good thing for both the Las Vegas Raiders and the NFL.

Immediately following the premiere on ESPN, the documentary will be available on the network’s streaming service, ESPN+ and you can click here to subscribe for this and the full library of 30 for 30 films.

One of the more fascinating themes of the upcoming ESPN 30 for 30 film, Al Davis vs. the NFL (which airs Feb. 4 on the network at 6 p.m. PT) is the fact that the Raiders finally have a great, state-of-the-art stadium, in Las Vegas ... 40-plus years after the Al Davis took on the league in his attempt to acquire a shiny, new stadium.

Immediately following the premiere on ESPN, the documentary will be available on the network’s streaming service, ESPN+ and you can click here to subscribe for this and the full library of 30 for 30 films.

Unlike his father, Mark Davis — who took over the team in 2011 after Al Davis died at age 82 — played nice with the NFL and Goodell, its commissioner. The result is the beautiful Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, where the Raiders moved to in 2020 after decades of not being able to get a new stadium in both Oakland and in Los Angeles.

Toward the end of the film, there is a clip in which Mark Davis says sometimes it’s better to cook with sugar rather than salt. Ken Rodgers, the acclaimed director of Al Davis vs. The NFL, told Silver and Black Pride on Monday that he believes Mark Davis is an underrated part of this puzzle.

“Al could never get what he was fighting for all those years,” Rodgers said in a phone interview on Monday. “But Mark was able to get it done. He deserves a lot of credit for that.”

Rodgers, who has directed several 30 for 30 films, was attracted to this project partly because he considers Al Davis one of “the greatest characters in NFL history.” The battle with Rozelle is featured in the documentary and how it took a toll on both men.

Asked if he thinks there was a villain and a hero in this battle, Rodgers had an interesting response.

“I think they were both right in their own fight,” Rodgers said. “But that doesn’t mean the other guy was wrong.”

Rodgers’ reasoned that Davis had his right to move his team where he thought it would flourish. But, also, Rodgers thought Rozelle was also correct in his attempt to keep control of his own league.

The director said what was most unique about this project was that the central figures in the film are deceased and he didn’t think secondary figures were equipped to talk about the matter. So, there were no new interviews conducted for this film. It was based on old clips and there is fictional narration from both Davis and Rozelle that embody the spirits of both men.

In the end, Rodgers believes both Davis and Rozelle won their battle, years after their deaths, in the form of Allegiant Stadium. The new stadium and having the NFL in Las Vegas is beneficial for both the franchise and the league.

“They both got what the wanted with this stadium and this city,” Rodgers said. “That’s why this was the perfect time to tell this story.”

Al Davis vs. the NFL premieres on ESPN on Feb. 4 at 6 p.m. PT. Watch the trailer below: