The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed an age discrimination lawsuit against the National Football League yesterday, claiming the league was not playing fair with its older referees.
"Since at least September 1987, the NFL has engaged in and is continuing to engage in unlawful employment practices," the lawsuit charged.
The EEOC said it sued to stop a widespread practice of discrimination against NFL officials who are 60 and older.
The agency specifically cited the "demotion" in July 1989 of Ben Dreith, now 66, from referee to line judge. Dreith, who had more than 20 years' experience, received the same pay of $2,000 per game in both positions.
Dreith filed a complaint with the EEOC after his contract was not renewed at the end of the last football season. The EEOC said it took the case to court after efforts to reach a compromise with the NFL failed.
The league did not comment directly on the allegations in the EEOC lawsuit.
"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."
* COLTS: Stanley Morgan, ranked fifth in NFL all-time receiving yardage, was waived.
The wide receiver, who spent 13 years with New England and 1990 with Indianapolis, has caught at least 20 passes each season.
Morgan, 36, has caught 557 passes for 10,716 yards and 72 touchdowns in his career. His best season was in 1986, when he caught 84 passes for 1,491 yards and 10 touchdowns and was named to the Pro Bowl.
Last year, after being released by New England in the spring, Morgan caught 23 passes for 364 yards and five touchdowns as the fourth wideout for the Colts.
* BEARS: Safety Shaun Gayle may be lost for several months because of a possible hairline fracture of his left leg, coach Mike Ditka said.
Gayle, who started all 16 games last season at strong safety, was kicked in the shins in Chicago's 31-3 playoff loss to the New York Giants in January, and he aggravated the injury while playing basketball during the off-season.
* VIKINGS: Defensive lineman Keith Millard signed a four-year, $8 million contract extension through the 1995 season.