Amy Trask joined the Raiders as an intern during law school after the team moved from Oakland to Los Angeles, and she worked her way up through the ranks, eventually becoming its chief executive. Along the way, Trask worked extremely closely with the late Al Davis, a man who treated her and others on his team without regard to gender, race and age. Trask may have been the highest-ranking female executive in the NFL during her tenure with the Raiders, but in You Negotiate Like A Girl: Reflections on a Career in the National Football League, she shares how she found success by operating without regard to gender. Here is an excerpt:
Early in my career, the organization was involved in some routine insurance litigation. It wasn't sexy or interesting and I wasn't particularly involved but on the day Al was to be deposed, as he began walking toward his car to head to that deposition, he said to me: "Let's go, Trask."
It had never occurred to me that he would want me with him, but he did. I grabbed my things and joined the group headed to the deposition, which was to be conducted at a law firm.
The deposition had been underway for several hours when the lawyer deposing Al asked him if he wanted to break for lunch. Al responded no, he had things to do and wanted to work through lunch but if others wanted to eat, someone could bring sandwiches in, and they could eat while they continued the deposition.
The lawyer's response: "Oh, good idea. Amy can get the sandwiches."
Al immediately banged his hand down on the table, his pinky ring clanging loudly. "Did you hear that? Did you hear that?" he said, looking up and down the long conference table, addressing everyone in attendance.
"There's one woman in this room and this guy says, 'Amy can get the sandwiches.' Did you hear that? This guy is really something."
This wasn't for show. Al was really angry. At the other end of the table, I sat there with a big smile on my face.
Al then said to my supervisor, the man who had hired me, the organization's chief lawyer who ultimately became its general counsel: "Jeff, get the sandwiches." To this day, Jeff and I love to laugh about this, and we periodically say to one another, "Jeff, get the sandwiches" as a wonderful tribute to Al.
I recognize that I had the privilege of working for a man who was not only unconcerned with my gender, but who spoke up and criticized others when he thought that they were too concerned with it. I realize that not all women have this privilege or this luxury. Did Al's lack of concern with my gender – and his defense of me when he believed it was of concern to others – shape my views on comporting myself without regard to gender? No, it did not shape them. But Al's views did create an environment which made it far easier for me to conduct myself as I wished than would have been the case elsewhere. Of course I understand that.
A humorous deposition moment occurred when Al was called upon to testify in a case about a game-day slip-and-fall matter. Again, I wasn't planning to attend but again, on his way to the deposition, he said "Trask, let's go," so I did. When we sat down to begin the deposition, I noticed two very young men in the room and I asked who they were. The lawyer who was to depose Al explained that one was his son, and another was his son's friend. "Are you kidding?" I asked. "Did you sell tickets?" I went on to pitch a bit of a fit, noting that his right to depose Al did not give him the right to use the deposition to entertain family and friends.
Al was not as bothered as I was – he was more tolerant of such things, which was interesting – and he told me to calm down. Once the kids were gone, the lawyer began the deposition and one of the first things he asked Al was whether he had ever been seen in the presence of large men in sweat pants. Al looked at Jeff, who was defending him in this deposition, and said, "Does this guy know what I do?"
While on the topic of litigation, I will note that although I attended law school, I did so with the express, stated intent of never practicing law. I wanted a legal education and a law degree for a number of reasons, but not so that I could be a lawyer. I pledged that not only wouldn't I ever see the inside of a courtroom, I wouldn't even know how to find the courthouse.
Upon graduation, I did join a law firm and I practiced transactional law (to wit: not litigation) for a short period of time but I still proclaimed that I would never see the inside of a courtroom or even be able to find the courthouse. That changed, of course, when I joined the Raiders.
The organization was embroiled in litigation well before I joined it and remained involved in litigation for a number of years thereafter. Although I never represented the organization in these matters or otherwise served as a litigator, I did attend some hearings to observe and in some matters, I was called as a witness. So, although I vowed that I would never find or enter that courthouse, I did.
On one occasion, without considering what I was about to do, I actually acted as a trial lawyer. We were in trial with the NFL and it was my turn on the witness stand. The lawyer for the league had been questioning me for a quite awhile, and then said: "I want to ask you a question." What a stupid thing to say, I thought. I'm on the witness stand; the only reason I'm here is so that you can ask me questions; you've been questioning me for some time; you don't need to tell me that you want to ask me a question.
Then, he asked his question, only it was two questions in one. I responded instinctively and said, "Actually, that was two questions, not one." I hadn't intended to pose an objection or to pretend I was a trial lawyer; I said what I did because he was annoying me and he said something I thought was dumb. The judge immediately said, "Objection sustained." Hey, look at me, I thought; I just made my very first (and I hope only) objection and it was sustained. I am sure I was smiling broadly. I looked into the audience where Al and my husband were sitting and they were both doing all they could to keep from laughing too hard – but they were laughing pretty hard.
I noted earlier that my first late-night call from Al came when I turned a standard player contract into a guaranteed, no-cut, no-trade contract. Another of what were many middle-of-the-night calls concerned Beavis and Butt-head, the MTV cartoon.
One night, after my husband and I had gone to bed and were well on our way to falling asleep, the phone rang. It was after midnight and we looked at one another knowingly – it was Al. My husband recalls my end of the conversation like this:
"No ... Beavis. BEE–VIS. No. Beavis. Like beaver, only Beavis. Mmm hmm. Beavis. Yes, Butt-head. BUTT HEAD. Like two words – butt and head – only one – Butt-head. That's right." Then, just for fun and added effect, I then intoned, "heh, heh, heh, heh" just the way Beavis or Butthead said it.
Well at this point, my husband looked at me like I lost my mind, rolled over, and went to sleep. Fortunately, he can sleep through anything.
We had received in discovery in our litigation with the league a copy of a league memorandum in which a very senior league executive referred to a group of team owners as "Beavis and Butt-head owners."
So, I had to explain to Al who Beavis and Butt-head were and that this was not a compliment (which, really, one should have understood from the name Butt-head). That week, I bought a VHS of Beavis and Butt-head and gave it Al. I don't think he ever watched it.
-- Excerpted by permission from You Negotiate Like A Girl: Reflections on a Career in the National Football League by Amy Trask With Mike Freeman. Copyright (c) 2016. Published by Triumph Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Follow Amy Trask on Twitter @AmyTrask. Follow Mike Freeman on Twitter @mikefreemanNFL.