Updated July 8, 2022 - 10:30 am
In one sense, Mark Davis is evolving as an NFL owner, having gone outside the Raiders’ organization twice in the last seven months to fill two major football positions.
But he also continues to follow in the footsteps of his late father Al, blazing trails that no other franchise has walked.
It’s two sides of a man whose team has yet again torn down walls of color and gender that have often stunted the NFL’s growth. They are two very distinct and significant sides.
“I’m learning every day,” Davis said. “It’s always about getting the best person available for the job. That’s our DNA. If you can do the best job and bring the Raiders back to where we need, that’s who we’re looking for.”
Boy, did he hit a home run Thursday.
Not just optics
You might first see this as perfect optics, a Raiders organization that has recently come under fire for what some women have said are hostile working conditions now hiring the first Black female to hold the position of team president.
And you would be right. It’s a great look.
But here’s the thing about Sandra Douglass Morgan: Her résumé carries the day. It couldn’t be more impressive. Davis got this right.
The historic part isn’t lost on him. How could it be? The Raiders have led the way for key minority hires dating decades. This is nothing new.
Truth is, the business part of things within those silver and black walls needed a fresh voice. A new perspective. Original ideas. Morgan and her background as a former Nevada Gaming Control Board chairwoman and having served on the Nevada State Athletic Commission brings all of that and more.
The football part will be handled by new general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels, leaders who also arrived with no direct ties to the organization. The hope is that a new culture can be created between each side of the building.
Or at least the kind Davis insists once existed.
Recent reports, one by the Review-Journal, painted a bleak picture of turnover at major positions and lawsuits and claims of harassment.
“I want to be clear,” Morgan said. “I am not here to sweep anything under the rug or avoid problems or concerns that need to be addressed.”
It has been a chaotic last year for sure, including the resignation of a coach (Jon Gruden), a president (Marc Badain) and the firing of his replacement (Dan Ventrelle).
Morgan will have high-ranking positions to fill. Her job begins immediately. It’s no cakewalk.
“We’ve taken some hits,” Davis said. “Since the articles came out, we’ve taken these things very seriously. We did an investigation into all of it and listened to the people who work in our organization. I believe we started to make those changes, to get the culture back to where we can feel positive about it. No question in my mind, (Morgan) is the person who can do that.”
Lost their way
Davis believes things became overly corporate and titles were more important than those actually wearing the hats. He believes that the Raiders lost their way in a sense that it was no longer about people and family first. That’s the culture he again wants to build.
So he has turned to Morgan, raised in Las Vegas and having lived here more than 40 years. Deeply passionate about the community. Excited to usher in a new chapter.
“The first time I met with her, I knew right then and there that she was someone I wanted to have in the organization,” said Davis, who also owns the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA. “It’s very similar to what happened with (Aces coach) Becky Hammon. I met her and just said, ‘Holy crap, she would be fantastic to have in this organization.’ It’s the same thing when I met Sandra.”
So he hired her as team president of the Raiders.
He made history.
And in so doing, hit a home run.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at email@example.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.