Is there an owner in the house?

I

3-27-01,

BY GEOFF HOBSON

PALM DESERT, Calif. _ The Raiders' $1 billion lawsuit against the NFL hit home Monday when a third of the owners failed to show up for the first day of the league meetings.

Amid rumblings that the missing owners feared getting served subpoenas in the trial, Bengals President Mike Brown checked in with the 20 owners who braved California law. Actually, the Bengals are one of the 16 teams not named in the suit in which the Raiders charge the NFL took away its right to the Los Angeles market.

It helped that Brown wasn't on any of the key committees during the league's 1995 effort to build the Raiders a stadium in Los Angeles.

"But that doesn't matter," said Brown, who fears paying 1/31 of the damages if the league loses. "Once the league is sued, then all the teams are involved. I don't know why the other owners didn't come. I do know the agenda has been curtailed because the people in the league office felt they didn't have proper opportunity to prepare for the meeting (because of the lawsuit)."

As for getting served, Brown said, "I just didn't think that's going to happen in my case."

Signs that the trial has become personal and bitter came when NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Monday, "I think most of the owners regard (the lawsuit) as a sham or counterfeit. Some regard it as a shakedown."

There are no votes scheduled for Tuesday. On Wednesday, there could be a closer than expected vote to extend instant replay for three years. If that goes down, they'll vote to keep renewing it on a year-to-year basis.

Also Wednesday, the owners figure to adopt the competition committee's recommendation that bandannas, do-rags and any other non-weather gear under the helmet be banned.

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