Owners make World League a casualty of Plan B ruling Tagliabue pushes for start of talks

September 18, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- The NFL owners put more than 400 World League football players out of work yesterday and started talking about how much free agency it has to give the 1,600 NFL players.

The football jobs evaporated when the NFL owners voted to suspend the World League for one season.

Although commissioner Paul Tagliabue said it was only a one-year pause to "get a sharper focus on Europe," there's no guarantee the league will survive.

If the league does return in a year, most of the teams will apparently be in Europe. The three European teams were more successful than the seven American teams.

Since only 15 World League players made NFL rosters, most of the more than 400 players in the league will be unemployed.

Meanwhile, the NFL owners started to talk about the new free agency plan they'll have to put in place by Feb. 1 to replace the Plan B system, if they can't get an agreement worked out before then.

The plan will depend on the rulings that federal Judge David Doty will make in wake of a decision by a federal court jury last week that Plan B violates the antitrust laws.

In the next step in the process, Doty will have a hearing Tuesday on the unsigned players -- including Keith Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles -- who want to be declared free agents immediately. He then has to decide whether to issue an injunction limiting the restrictions the league can put on the players.

Complicating the issue is the fact that the owners and players can't agree on the impact of the verdict. The players say that since Plan B was thrown out, they have the upper hand. The owners disagree.

Frank Rothman, the league's attorney, briefed the owners yesterday and virtually claimed victory because only four of the eight players got damages and the jurors said the league's restrictive system contributed to competitive balance.

"These are important victories," Rothman said. "We certainly intend to make the most of those."

The owners echoed his comments.

"The briefing makes me feel great about our position. We're very pleased," Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.

Tagliabue, though, said the two sides should start negotiating. He even pulled back from a league's statement last week that its offer is now off the table.

Calling those comments "childish," he said, "We never had a table. We sat in a hotel room and drank Coke without a table."

Tagliabue also said the two sides have yet to even schedule a meeting since the verdict.

It looks as if the free agency fight will go on -- and on.

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