NFL Strike Ends as Union Files Antitrust Suit

Times Staff Writer

The 24-day-old National Football League strike ended Thursday when the NFL Players Union ordered the players back to work without agreement on a new contract and filed an antitrust suit against the league.

“It was unfair to the players to continue to sacrifice anymore,” union leader Gene Upshaw told reporters in New York as he called off the strike. Upshaw said that player representatives from all 28 teams had voted to return to work.

The NFL owners, however, maintained their hard-line stance against the striking players, refusing to rescind an earlier deadline for reporting. Players who crossed picket lines Wednesday will be paid and will be eligible to play this weekend, but those who did not report until Thursday will not be paid and will not be eligible until next week.


Would Get Per Diem Pay

John Jones, spokesman for the NFL Management Council, the owners’ bargaining arm, said the striking players will receive only their per diem pay for this week, $700 for veterans and $450 for rookies, plus $38 a day in meal money.

“They’re welcome to report,” Jones said. “They will get paid per diem, but since they’re ineligible to play this Sunday, they will not receive game checks.”

The NFL will allow only non-union players and the 228 players who reported earlier to compete in this weekend’s games.

Many of the striking players who returned to the 28 NFL practice sites after learning that the strike had ended left again when they learned of the league’s stance, preferring to stay out until next week.

“It seems kind of petty,” Ram tailback Eric Dickerson said.

Having failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement in negotiating sessions, the union went to court, filing an antitrust suit against the NFL and team owners in Minneapolis federal court Thursday afternoon. The suit claims that the owners conspired to impose a compensation system that unfairly limits competition.

The key issues of the strike were free agency sought by the players, control of the pension plan, player compensation and the matter of guaranteed contracts.

Locally, the striking Rams returned to Rams Park in Anaheim to report for work, but most left after learning they were ineligible for Sunday’s game in Atlanta.

Dickerson, Everett Can Play

Dickerson and quarterback Jim Everett will be eligible to play, since they had been included on Wednesday’s list of players returning.

Dickerson, however, left camp with the rest of the striking players Thursday and said he would not play Sunday.

“I can’t take a chance going in behind this (non-union) offensive line,” Dickerson said.

Everett was the only striking player who remained in camp. Coach John Robinson said that Everett would not start against the Falcons but would play.

Ten Raiders, including quarterback Rusty Hilger and kicker Chris Bahr, were on the list of eligible players submitted to the NFL Wednesday and will be able to play Sunday against the San Diego Chargers at the Coliseum, if Coach Tom Flores chooses to use them.

Additional details in Sports.