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Money dispute, mock salutes detract from rivalry

November 24, 1997

DENVER (AP) _ A protracted dispute over an unpaid debt and hurt feelings over mock salutes have constituted a distracting sideshow to an NFL rivalry that usually stands on its own.

As the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos completed preparations for tonight’s game at Mile High Stadium, the accusations and denials should finally give way to blocking and tackling.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, fired as the Raiders coach in 1989, said last week he is willing to forget about the $250,000 he says the Raiders owe him _ if Raiders owner Al Davis will donate the money, plus interest, to the Oakland Unified School District.

``This has been an eight-year fight and I would like to put this behind me,″ said Shanahan, who was fired in the second year of his three-year contract with the Raiders. ``It’s a lot of money going into an educational system that could really use the money.″

Raiders chief executive Amy Trask, however, said Shanahan actually owes the Raiders. At the time he was hired by the Raiders in 1988, Trask said, Shanahan signed a promissory note for a loan from the team that was in the ``range of what he erroneously is reporting we owe him.″

In 1990, the NFL issued a ruling in Shanahan’s favor. The Raiders appealed, and the league still is awaiting a response from Shanahan’s attorneys. Trask contends there has been no response because Shanahan and other Broncos officials ``perjured themselves at that hearing.″

So the dispute lingers, and Shanahan and Davis still hate each other.

Raiders and Broncos players never have liked each other very much, either, and that situation didn’t improve following Oakland’s 28-25 victory on Oct. 19 _ Denver’s first loss after opening the season with six victories.

While the setback was bad enough, getting taunted made it especially painful.

Denver running backs created the ``Mile High Salute″ in the season opener, standing at attention and saluting fellow backs as a way to celebrate touchdowns.

But in the game in Oakland, Raider defenders saluted Denver’s Terrell Davis when they tackled him. Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown saluted Broncos safety Tyrone Braxton after he caught a game-clinching third-down pass with barely a minute remaining.

Then, as Raider coach Joe Bugel walked toward midfield to shake hands, he, too, saluted.

``It was just the ultimate slap at the end,″ Denver running back Vaughn Hebron said.

``I don’t take anything on a personal level,″ Davis said. ``But they were doing it in mockery. They weren’t doing it in good faith. They were trying to rub it in.″

Running back Derek Loville added, ``I won’t be thinking about that Monday night _ because we’ll be doing all the saluting.″

The Raiders, typically, dismissed the flap.

Asked if he saluted, Bugel said with a laugh, ``No. I scratched my forehead.″

Raider cornerback Albert Lewis said his team was unfazed by Denver’s reaction.

``We don’t really care,″ Lewis said. ``People may want to say that is taunting. But I don’t know the difference between us saluting and them saluting. You can certainly see the frustration and anger that other teams have when they score a touchdown and salute. That was just our way of saying you’re not going to do it in our house.″

The Raiders (4-7) had plenty of opportunity to mock salute in the earlier meeting. Napoleon Kaufman ran for a club-record 227 yards, including a 57-yard run on the first play from scrimmage and an 83-yard touchdown run. The defense effectively contained Davis, the NFL’s leading rusher, who had 85 yards on 23 carries _ his second-lowest output of the season.

Oakland is coming off its best game of the season, a 38-13 rout of San Diego in which Harvey Williams caught two TD passes and ran for two more.

Denver (9-2) bowed to Kansas City as Pete Stoyanovich kicked a 54-yard field goal on the final play. When Kansas City beat Seattle 19-14 on Sunday, the Broncos’ lead in the AFC West was reduced to a half game.

The Broncos have won three straight Monday night games _ two of them against Oakland.

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