In opening statements in the lawsuit seeking nearly $1 billion against the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum, its lead negotiator and the defunct Arthur Andersen accounting firm, attorney Roger Dreyer said the team was defrauded eight years ago and its future is now in jeopardy.
The team claims it lost between $500 million and $1 billion because a breach of good faith and fraudulent misrepresentation by the Coliseum and associates who said the stadium would sell out for the Raiders.
City and county officials have called the claims absurd and said the team lost money because of poor performances in the 1990s. Davis only sued in 1997, after the team finished 4-12, the team's worst season since 1962.
Dreyer said the team's return to Oakland after the Northridge earthquake had weakened the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was said by Oakland officials to be worth $1 billion in ticket sales for the team over 15 years.
A letter to owner Al Davis from Oakland city official Ezra Rapport said there was "no precedent for a team as popular and legendary as the Raiders to return home.''
"The next generation want to get in the stadium to relive this experience,'' Rapport wrote. "There is no better market anywhere in the world.''
Defense lawyer James Brosnahan, representing the Oakland Coliseum and its negotiator, Ed DeSilva, said there were no guarantees attached to the deal and no promises of a sold-out Coliseum.
Dreyer took the jury back to the birth of the Oakland Raiders in 1960 in the American Football League, which merged with the NFL in 1970. He traced the team's move to Southern California in 1982 and the negotiations that led to their return to Oakland.
Along the way, he pointed out to the 12-person jury each of the team's three Super Bowl championships as he referred to the "winningest professional franchise in all of sports.''
In 1995, as the NFL considered whether to approve the move to the Bay Area, the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Commission sent out press releases announcing that the stadium had been sold out for 1995 and most of 1996.
Internal documents, however, show that the claim of selling the rights to 47,000 seats was inflated by about 10,000. But that information was kept from the public and Davis.
The relocation was finalized in a 190-page contract that spelled out all the details, down to the definition of a seat, he said.
The city of Oakland and Alameda County were originally named in the lawsuit, but the case against them was dismissed two years ago.
Davis was not in court Monday, but was shown in photos presented several times on a large screen for the jury to see. He is expected to testify later in the trial.