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Sports Commission Drops Ball
Group's leader quits, blasts Jerry Brown
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing The Chronicle at 483 Ninth St., Suite 100, Oakland, CA 94607.
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