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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rossiter Drake*

Former 49ers president Carmen Policy is making his play to keep the team in San Francisco.


Denise DeBartolo York deserves your respect.

While she has avoided the spotlight that her brother, Eddie DeBartolo, so famously embraced during the ’80s, when he turned San Francisco into the hub of the NFL universe, York has toiled quietly in the shadows, expanding her family’s corporate empire and sponsoring the construction of state-of-the-art athletic fields around the Bay Area.

As president of the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1988 to 1991, she earned a championship trophy of her own, becoming one of only eight women to have her name engraved on the Stanley Cup. She is a dedicated mother of four whose net worth approaches $1 billion, but she still shops regularly at Walgreens and T.J. Maxx. And let’s not forget that she presided over the 49ers as a mostly invisible partner during every one of their Super Bowl-winning seasons.

But according to one man, the Youngstown, Ohio, native lacks the intensely competitive mindset that made her brother such an unprecedented success with the Niners. And that man is Carmen Policy.

“Denise DeBartolo is a very nice woman. She’s a real delight and a good solid person, a good human being,” Policy recently told KGO Radio. “She never really wanted the football team. She’s more interested, I think, in cheering for Youngstown State’s women’s basketball team because they’re local. It’s a community thing. So I don’t mean she’s not interested in the 49ers – she is. But she’s not a sports-type fan.”

By her own admission, York never sought sole ownership of the 49ers. The franchise fell into her lap after her brother was suspended from the NFL for his role in the corruption case of former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards. And though some team owners, including Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, have vowed to campaign for Eddie DeBartolo’s reinstatement – should he ever seek it – York has never hinted that she would welcome her estranged brother back into the fold.

Now Policy, who was DeBartolo’s team president and chief executive officer, has openly questioned York’s dedication. And that’s not all – he is spearheading a movement to keep the Niners in San Francisco, at a Hunters Point location “that right now is basically a desert that will be transformed into an oasis.”

Armed with the signatures of more than 14,000 San Francisco residents who hope to keep the Niners in the city, Policy is pushing a ballot measure that would jumpstart the redevelopment of Hunters Point and Candlestick Point, paving the way for the construction of a new stadium and 10,000 housing units. It’s an initiative that the 49ers have neither seen nor supported – York is reportedly waiting for Santa Clara voters to approve a new, city-sponsored stadium for the team, possibly on Election Day. But Policy hopes to have a competitive proposal in place by July, and he seems confident that the Yorks will listen. After all, what do they have to lose?

While the 49ers seem to have abandoned any plans of staying in San Francisco, Policy has pushed himself to the forefront of the movement to keep the team on the city's southeast side, where it became one of the NFL's flagship franchises. Without him, it is doubtful that movement would gather any momentum, despite the Yorks' abysmal 58-89 record since taking over. With him, it stands a chance. Policy remains highly respected within NFL circles, and to Niners fans he is a symbol of all things sacred: Joe Montana. Steve Young. Jerry Rice. Bill Walsh. Five Lombardi Trophies.

Will his plan work? Who knows? There’s a certain poetry to the idea of Policy stepping in to save the Niners one more time, and short of bringing the city a sixth championship, a new stadium at Hunters Point could be the next best thing. Stay tuned.

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