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NFL PLAYERS STRIKE: DAY 5 : Union Says It Also May Play Games : Fox TV Is Interested Despite Owners' Claim of Illegality

September 27, 1987|From Times Wire Services

Stalled negotiations jeopardized a second week of normal National Football League play Saturday as the union revealed that it too may stage games during the strike.

Owners continued their plans to play games with non-union players beginning next Sunday, while the union confirmed that Fox Broadcasting Co. had offered to televise games between players who were on strike. However, John Jones, an NFL Management Council spokesmen, said those games would be illegal.

"When a player signs a contract with the league, the provisions of the contract prohibit that action," Jones said. "I'm not saying it's a non-issue, but we haven't spent a lot of time around here worrying about it. But just so that everyone is clear on this, legally the games can't be played."

All this came amid charges that management is using the issue of free agency to cover up a union-breaking scheme. Three days of negotiations ended Friday in Philadelphia with no further talks scheduled. Jones said it appears the two sides can't meet again before Thursday.

Jack Donlan, the council's executive director, has staff meetings and conference calls with owners scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, "so our agenda is pretty much set" until the end of the week, Jones said.

"Hopefully, we can get something fruitful going next week in the way of negotiations," Commissioner Pete Rozelle said Saturday on ABC Radio.

Jones indicated that the next move was up to the union, while Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Assn., said he was waiting for a call from Donlan.

"The issue of free agency clearly is where we're stuck," Jones said. "I think there needs to be further consideration from the union end."

The union has asked for free agency without compensation for players with four years of NFL experience. Management has made small concessions in the amount of compensation that would be awarded to a team losing a free-agent player.

Upshaw said management was purposely stalling negotiations in an attempt to "divide and conquer" the union.

Upshaw plans to be in Los Angeles today to attend a regional meeting of players from the West. Other areas of the country will have similar mneetings.

Picketing appeared to taper off, except in Minnesota. About 20 Vikings picketed outside their training camp and greeted non-union players who were arriving for the first time to practice.

Picket lines disappeared in Denver Friday, and Saturday, there were no pickets at training sites of the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. Teams had obtained court orders against pickets by the Eagles, Patriots and Colts.

There were no reports of violence, however, at any camp where non-strikers were preparing for owners' makeup games.

Meanwhile, San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana, who is not a union member but has so far honored the picket line, indicated in a radio interview that he might cross that line and join the 49ers' non-union team.

"There is a possibility I'll play," Montana said.

At least four prominent NFL players--Randy White of the Dallas Cowboys, Mark Gastineau of the New York Jets, Marc Wilson of the Raiders and Gary Hogeboom of the Indianapolis Colts, have already crossed picket lines.

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