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Union to 'Haunt' Games : Upshaw Says Strikers Will Try to Stop Them

September 30, 1987|From Times Wire Services

The National Football League Players' Assn. vowed to stop Sunday's replacement games as their walkout entered its eighth day Tuesday with the two sides locked in a battle.

Facing the near certainty that owners would go ahead with plans to play Sunday using rookies, free agents and veterans who were willing to cross picket lines, union head Gene Upshaw took a hard line.

"We don't advocate violence, but we do advocate doing whatever's necessary to stop these games, and we will do it," Upshaw said in Atlanta after meeting with representatives of six teams.

"We'll haunt those games," Upshaw said. "They are really tearing down our product, and we don't like it."

Upshaw said union workers in all 28 NFL cities have made commitments to help the striking players. He refused to be specific on what union workers would do.

Gary Reasons, the New York Giants' alternate player representative, said the players had a surprise planned for Sunday but would not elaborate.

Upshaw met with players in Atlanta and later in Elizabeth City, N.J. The message Upshaw had after each meeting was the same, that the union membership was still solidly behind the strike and management was trying to break the union by failing to negotiate.

The two sides have not met at the bargaining table since last Friday and, because of the schedules of both the union and the NFL Management Council, it didn't seem possible for them to meet again before Thursday. Even that appeared unlikely, however.

Both sides remain adamant in their position on the key issue--free agency--and management has said there's no sense meeting for the sake of meeting.

Throughout the NFL, season- ticket holders lined up to collect full refunds for Sunday's games.

By noon, there were about 80 people standing in line to get refunds at the Raider camp in El Segundo. Al LoCasale, Raider executive assistant, said he had no idea how many ticket-holders had asked for refunds.

Cleveland spokesman Bob Eller said about 10,500 of 78,000 tickets sold for the Browns' Monday night game against Denver had been returned for refunds. Eller said the demand for refunds appeared to ease up Tuesday.

NBC, as expected, announced that it will televise Sunday's games. The network is planning to show Miami at Seattle in Los Angeles at 1 p.m. CBS and ABC earlier announced it will televise non-union games this weekend.

The NFL waived TV blackouts in eight cities in which games are usually sold out at least 72 hours in advance of game times.

In Philadelphia, Ed Marion, executive director of the Professional Football Referees Assn., said regular referees would work the replacement games. While emphasizing his association was not a union, Marion said: "If we don't work, we don't get paid."

The striking players missed their first paycheck Tuesday. About 1,600 strikers suffered a combined loss of $13.4 million for the first week of their walkout, according to Michael Duberstein, the research director of the NFL Players Assn. Players earning the minimum $50,000 annually lost a $3,125 paycheck while a player with a $1-million salary missed $62,500.

Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said he had "no doubt" some the striking players will return. But linebacker Ricky Hunley, the club's player representative, said: "There's been talk around the league that Chicago's going back in, that San Francisco's going back in and that Denver's going back in. But I guarantee you Denver's not going in. You might see one or two guys go back in, but that's about it."

Hunley said he has a "good idea" which Denver players might cross the line, but he refused to identify them. Players known to be lukewarm toward the strike include quarterback John Elway and offensive tackle Dave Studdard.

At Houston, starting nose guard Doug Smith became the first member of the Oilers' 45-man roster to cross the picket line. "It felt better on the inside of the fence," Smith said.

In Atlanta, Upshaw reiterated that the union was solidly behind the strike, despite decisions by some veterans to cross picket lines. "The owners think if a couple of people trickle in, we'll all cross," Upshaw said, "and that's not going to happen. We speak with one voice."

NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle said he doesn't perceive himself as a potential hero in settling the NFL strike, although he has been communicating with negotiators from both sides.

Rozelle told the Dallas Morning News that despite his efforts thus far toward resolving the strike, he is not yet prepared to sit down at the bargaining table.

"Maybe if something gets close, I can be helpful," Rozelle said. "But I don't want to project myself as a potential hero. It would upset the players and the owners and it wouldn't be true."

In New York, the National Labor Relations Board said that it had received "a whole mess" of charges from both sides, alleging bad-faith bargaining, among other things.

Dan Silverman of the NLRB said the union also had filed a series of charges "of attempts to interfere with the union's right to picket in Miami, Atlanta, Kansas City and Hempstead, N.Y.," where the New York Jets train.

The NFL filed a "refusal to bargain" charge against the union, Silverman said, and the NLRB's Brooklyn office had received a complaint from the NFL against the Jets "for picketing where they shouldn't be picketing."

In Kansas City, former Chief wide receiver Otis Taylor, who now scouts for the team, filed a complaint against striking linebacker Jack Del Rio, a former USC star, over a scuffle between the two outside Arrowhead Stadium last week. Taylor alleges he was assaulted by Del Rio.

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