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Sports Commission Drops Ball
Group's leader quits, blasts Jerry Brown

Chip Johnson - SF Chronicle

Tuesday, November 14, 2000

(11-14) 04:00 PDT Oakland -- Now that the bidding war for the rights to host the 2005 Super Bowl is over, so is the gig for the man who carried Oakland's failed bid to NFL owners two weeks ago.

Zennie Abraham, president of the Oakland-Alameda County Sports Commission, the quasi-public agency that put together the bowl pitch, has resigned from his city job in frustration.

And he didn't help his chances for future employment with the city by smearing Mayor Jerry Brown on the way out.

Abraham, who was an economic adviser to former Mayor Elihu Harris, attacked Brown in an e-mail distributed to the commission's board of directors after the owners awarded the 2005 game to Jacksonville, Fla.

Abraham said Brown had problems relating to well-spoken young African American men, including himself. Although Brown accompanied him to Atlanta, Abraham was angered that the city didn't provide him with more financial support.

Well, his missive backfired.

At least three members of the commission's board -- including developer and longtime Brown backer Phil Tagami -- bailed out from the sinking ship soon after receiving Abraham's letter.

The East Bay never really had a chance for the Super Bowl bid, given the lackluster support from city government and local business and the long-running friction between the city and county and the Raiders over the team's lease to play in Network Associates Coliseum.

Still, Abraham apparently took the loss pretty hard.

A news release last week announcing his resignation was packed with complaints about the lack of clerical and financial support from the city. Among his complaints: The city didn't pay his airfare or hotel bills for trips he made leading up to the Atlanta bid.

"I had to do everything, from run the commission to answer the phones to make copies to negotiate contracts with the NFL to carrying 32 boxes of Palm Computers and Bid Books (for each of the team owners) down to a Fed Ex Truck that arrived late and in the pouring rain," he wrote.


The whole experience created some pretty bad feelings between Abraham and some city officials. Still, Abraham wants to continue his work with the commission, as a private businessman, setting his sights on bringing high- profile sporting events to Oakland.

Next on the commission's wish list are NCAA women's basketball and rowing tournaments for 2002, he said.

Let me see. A commission without a board, finances or any backing from the political or business community . . . .

If Abraham thought the city's Super Bowl bid lacked support, just wait until potential investors respond to this lead-pipe-cinch loser bet.

"I don't know what level of private funding will be available based on the new proposed activity," said a former board member.

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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