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2005 Oakland Super Bowl: Who's For It?
Few officials at news conference boosting bid

(10-26) 04:00 PDT OAKLAND -- Oakland unveiled its bid to bring a Super Bowl to Network Associates Coliseum in 2005 at a City Hall news conference yesterday that was notable for the Bay Area politicians who did not attend.

There was no Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown. No San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. No representative from either the Oakland Raiders or the San Francisco 49ers. A Raiders official said the team wasn't invited.

The sum total of elected officials who showed up at the news conference to root for the home town: Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele, City Councilman Dick Spees and a representative for Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland.

It's pretty clear why the Raiders didn't show up, even though they are expected to back the bid, mainly because it would be very weird to cast a vote against your own city.

But the multimillion-dollar legal dispute between the Raiders and the Coliseum authority, a city-county agency that operates the stadium, is an open wound that has not healed.

When league owners meet Wednesday to decide where the big game should be played, Raiders owner Al Davis is expected to back the home team -- but it appears that's as far as the Raiders are willing to go -- publicly at least.

Behind the scenes, some Raiders officials have lobbied on the city's behalf but can't publicly endorse the deal because of the 3-year-old legal dispute.

That issue plus the vanity of San Francisco's Mayor Brown, who fears that a successful Oakland bid could damage future bids from his town, has made the Super Bowl bid a tough sell to East Bay politicians and others.

San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown has said he supports the idea but cannot commit city resources to the bid.

Neither will Oakland. local politicians have been reluctant to commit time or financial resources because of the disastrous 1995 deal that brought the Raiders back to town.

When personal seat licenses did not sell as well as expected after the team's return to the East Bay five years ago, local taxpayers were saddled with millions of dollars in debt for the construction of a monolithic seating addition that's come to be known as Mount Davis.

``There are people in government who don't understand the nature of sports sponsorship,'' said Zenophon Abraham, the architect of the city's Super Bowl pitch as president of the nonprofit Oakland-Alameda County Sports Commission.

``They don't know what it means to sell, sell, sell.''

Abraham's proposal relies primarily on corporate sponsorship that kicks in only when, and if, a bid is secured.

Unfortunately, local politicians who negotiated the Raiders' return are very sensitive to public criticisms that they spend, spend, spend, even if scoring the game would bring millions of dollars in tourist revenue to the city.

In spite of the lack of a united political front, an 11th-hour meeting between city officials may have persuaded Oakland's Mayor Brown to attend next week's presentation before league owners in Atlanta.

It wouldn't be a bad idea for Jerry Brown to take the handoff and run with it. He's the city's most visible resident, and his presence would send the right kind of signal to NFL owners.

This would be a turnabout for Brown, who refused, even mocked, a delegation of local politicians who attended a meeting of Major League Baseball owners in Cooperstown last fall to push for league approval of an ill-fated deal to sell the Oakland A's to a local group led by former A's executive Andy Dolich.

Steele will offer up a resolution at today's meeting of the Coliseum authority to support the bid, but it is expected to be met with tough opposition by her colleague, Supervisor Mary King. King could be joined by Oakland Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who has bumped heads with Al Davis over the lawsuit.

``I have no approval from the council to take a a position to support this proposal,'' De La Fuente said. ``I don't think it's a feasible option, and I can't support any resolution that would make us (financially) responsible.''

Oakland is one of three finalists for the 2005 bowl bid, competing against two Florida cities: Jacksonville, a league newcomer, and Miami, which has hosted more Super Bowl games than any other city.

Jacksonville's City Council has passed resolutions pledging financial support for the event, and Miami boasts 11 five-star hotels in town.

The Bay Area is a preferable destination to either of those cities, but the legal dispute and lack of political will to make it happen will surely be considered by league owners when the vote is taken.

Bruce Allen, a senior assistant in the Raiders organization, suggested that the ongoing battle may prompt more questions from owners than the city's Super Bowl bid.

``I think the league and many of the owners are looking forward to asking many questions to the East Bay political leaders, because they want to know what happened to our deal,'' Allen said.

If that happens, the city should just go ahead and punt.

Chip Johnson's column appears in The Chronicle on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He can be reached at (510) 433-5984, by e-mail at chjohnson@sfchronicle.com, or by writing The Chronicle at 483 Ninth St., Suite 100, Oakland, CA 94607.

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