Alameda Magazine, January 2004
Behind every good man, there’s a woman. This old saying probably wouldn’t sit well with Amy Trask, but there’s no denying she’s the “point person” for Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders. When Davis first hired Trask over 16 years ago, as a young attorney just out of law school, he was already known for shattering the image of the good old boy’s club. “I do feel very, very privileged to work for an organization that has a four decade tradition of hiring without regard to race, gender, ethnicity, age, etc.” Trask says. “Think about it–Tom Flores, Art Shell, and the list goes on and on.” But does Trask stop to bask in the glory of her own accomplishments? After all, as the NFL’s first Chief Executive she’s gone where no woman has gone before. Her answer is–no. “If I don’t want my gender to be an issue, the last thing that I should do is make my gender an issue,” she says without hesitation.
Still, you have to wonder where Trask got the grit to forge a trail in what’s been a virtual wilderness for women–the NFL. “The commandment in our house was “do not label people–do not pigeon hole people,” she says, adding, “Character was the prevailing theme here, and the value of hard work.” For Trask, her parents were strong role models. “They were critical of people that wanted to ”cut corners” or ”find a short cut” or take an ”easy way out,” she adds. At the same time, they told their daughter to find something she loved and to do it with all her heart.
Enter, football. It wasn’t a passion she was born with, or even born into. Trask admits, she’s not quite sure how she became the rabid football fan she is today. “I didn’t grow up in a family of avid football fans. I am really the first in that regard.” She recalls being glued to the TV, watching football, when her parents wanted her to go out with them. By the time Trask attended college at Cal in the late 70’s, she was rapidly becoming a Raider fan–cheering the team on at the Oakland Coliseum. When she graduated from UC Berkeley and started law school at the University of Southern California, the Raiders were making their own move south. It was as if two planets had aligned. By 1987, Trask found the opportunity she’d been waiting for, and was hired to work in the Raider’s legal department.
As you can imagine, handling litigation for the Raiders has been more than a full time job. But Trask says people often forget who started the legal wrangling here. “The City of Oakland and Alameda County (our landlords) sued us (during the football season). All the litigation has stemmed from that action.” She adds, “It’s hard to imagine a landlord that has only three tenants getting into litigation with all three of them,” saying it’s unfortunate for everyone.
What energizes her is the fans. “Simply put, we have the best (absolutely, positively, without a doubt the best) fans in all of sports,” she says. And on any given Sunday, when the Raiders are on the road, Trask and her husband, Rob, make the tail-gate circuit. They walk the stadium parking lot meeting fans. “The Raider Nation is vast,” she says proudly, adding there’s a fan base from South Dakota that travels all the way to Denver to see Oakland play. Then there’s the island contingency. “We have an enormous following in Hawaii. All over the islands, you find Raider gear and Raider fans,” she says. Trask laughs that the team’s websites–Raiders.com and Raidersenespanol.com get hits from every continent on earth except, possibly, Antarctica.
Dakota fans hold a special place in Trask’s heart. Her husband, Rob, is from what she calls “The great state of South Dakota.” “I’ll tell you, for a state with a population of well under a million, there are a lot of impressive people who come from there,” she says. (Tom Brokaw and USA Today founder Allen Neuharth to name just 2).
Trask and her husband live in the Oakland Hills and share many of the same interests. They’re both attorneys, and, since they met in graduate school in Los Angeles, they both love the beach. “My husband and I lead a really, really simple (okay, boring) life. We enjoy attending sporting events and entertaining and spending time with dear friends.”
But there’s another side of Trask that reveals much about her soul and spirit. She’s a horsewoman, with a 4-legged equestrian team mate named Wind Jammer. “Riding (and particularly jumping) is truly a partnership between the horse and the rider,” she shares, adding that the two, over time, can anticipate each other’s moves. Sound like football? Trask thinks so, comparing rider and horse to any two players who can anticipate what each other will do in a certain play. “A really, really amazing sensation is when you can’t determine where the horse ends and the rider begins and vice versa.” She says she’s learned a lot about herself by working with horses. Everything from how she meets challenges and navigates obstacles to whether she’s a good leader and follower.
Trask has another outlet for her passion for animals. She’s on the board of directors for ARF, Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation. “It’s a magnificent program,” she says, “both for the animals that are rescued and for the people rescued by the animals. ARF pairs animals with at-risk teens who benefit from their unconditional love. Though she has no children of her own, Trask enjoys spending time with kids. She’s served on the board of the Alameda Boys and Girl’s Club and last fall, was a celebrity judge for the Alameda Youth Court. “This program allows children to mature, to learn the difference between right and wrong, and to accept responsibility for their behavior.” Trask says she’s inspired by the teens in the program.
You get the feeling from talking to Trask, that everything in her life is connected to the bottom line–to be at the top of her game. To this end, she works tirelessly on the Raiders image in the community. Like the Raiders fashion show she helped organize, recently, for the East Bay Agency for Children. Trask took the opportunity to mix a little business with pleasure by holding an impromptu staff meeting during the cocktail hour. Then it was onto the runway, where she thanked a packed room of fans for their support and spoke on behalf of her team. “These guys have one day off a week, and they’ve chosen to spend it with you.” This, too, is Trask’s job–helping the team stay connected to the community.
With her groundbreaking place in the hierarchy of the Raiders and the NFL, Trask is certain to be a role model for future generations of women. How fitting, then, that her own role model is Rosa Parks. “What a strong, courageous, powerful woman,” Trask says thoughtfully. What strength and courage it took for her to say “I’m not going to the back of the bus.” And the impact that had on an entire Nation.” Like Rosa Parks, Trask has shown with her own career, that she takes a back seat to no-one.