The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit in New York City charging that the NFL has practiced widespread discrimination against officials who are 60 and older.
"Since at least September 1987, the NFL has engaged in and is continuing to engage in unlawful employment practices," the lawsuit said.
The agency cited what it called the demotion in July of 1989 of Ben Dreith, now 66, from referee to line judge. Dreith, who had more than 20 years of experience, received the same pay of $2,000 per game in both positions.
Dreith filed a complaint with the EEOC after his contract wasn't renewed at the end of last season. The EEOC said it took the case to court after efforts to reach a compromise with the NFL failed.
"The NFL has committed a very personal foul against Mr. Dreith," EEOC chairman Evan Kemp Jr. said at a news conference in Washington.
"Our NFL referees, like the players, are evaluated by their performance and competence on the field," NFL spokesman Pete Abitante said. "We look forward to explaining to the court that very basic reason for Ben Dreith's so-called demotion."
The NFL employs 107 officials. An EEOC lawyer estimated 10 are 60 or older.
Safety Shaun Gayle might be lost to the Chicago Bears for the season because of a possible hairline fracture of his left leg. . . . All-pro running back Barry Sanders, who signed a renegotiated contract Monday, participated in the Detroit Lions' afternoon practice. . . . Ernie Mills, the Pittsburgh Steelers' last rookie holdout, signed a two-year contract and reported to training camp three weeks after Coach Chuck Noll advised him not to bother to show up. . . . Strong safety Kevin Porter reported to the Kansas City Chiefs' training camp after a holdout. . . . Offensive tackle Frank Pollack of the San Francisco 49ers injured his left knee during practice.
Fran Murray expects Victor Kiam, the New England Patriots' majority owner, to find a buyer the 49% interest in the team owned by Murray, who wants to obtain an NFL expansion franchise in St. Louis. . . . Stanley Morgan, ranked fifth in NFL all-time receiving yardage, was waived by the Indianapolis Colts.