Strike pay due 1,300 from NFL

September 13, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

Doug Williams, who retired from the Washington Redskins after the 1989 season and is now an assistant at Navy, will be finding a check in his Annapolis mailbox in the next few months for a 1987 NFL game.

It didn't get lost in the mail all these years. Instead, it's just one final chapter left over from the players' bitter 1987 strike.

Williams is one of 1,300 current and former NFL players who'll be paid for a game the owners wouldn't let them participate in the weekend of Oct. 18-19, 1987, even though they already had ended their 24-day strike.

The National Labor Relations Board will announce at a news conference today that the players will be awarded $30 million -- $18 million in salary for that weekend and $12 million in interest.

According to the NFL, it actually paid the $30 million into a trust fund as part of the $195 million overall settlement it made with the players on Jan. 6, 1993, when the two sides ended a five-year legal battle and came to a collective bargaining agreement.

But the settlement almost bogged down on the issue of whether the owners would pay the employer's Social Security taxes on the money. When the players threatened to go back to court, the owners agreed to pay the taxes and the NLRB approved the settlement.

"It's a real step forward for us," Doug Allen, the assistant executive director of the NFL Players Association, said last night. "It's long overdue."

The NLRB announced it as the biggest back pay award in the history of the agency.

The former Redskin who'll get the biggest check is Jay Schroeder, now with the Arizona Cardinals. Schroeder will get a $50,000 check plus interest.

The biggest check in the league will go to New York Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason, who had the highest base salary in the league that year -- $1.2 million. He will get $75,000 plus interest.

Former Redskin Jeff Bostic, who will get slightly more than $20,000 plus interest, said, "This is a welcome check for a lot of guys, especially the ones who've been out of the league four or five years. It'll be a nice Christmas bonus."

But he complained the players only got simple interest on the money, not compound interest. "It's another case of this union fumbling the ball," Bostic said.

Richard Berthelsen, the union's general counsel, said the players got the same interest rate the IRS requires on back taxes.

Cornerback Darrell Green, who'll get $25,000 plus interest, said, "It's going to be great for everybody."

The dispute started when the NFLPA ended its strike on Thursday, Oct. 15, but a hard-line faction of owners argued the players missed Wednesday's 1 p.m. deadline and wouldn't let them play that weekend.

The players then started the legal fight that led to the current agreement that includes the salary cap.

Although the cap has been controversial and has forced many players to take pay cuts, salaries have exploded since 1987 when there were only 21 players in the entire league averaging $1 million a year.

There are now 340 players making a million a year and the top 25 on each team average $1.05 million.

There is still legal strife, though, with the players filing a grievance contending it's illegal to cut a player's salary when the team already is under the cap.

The NFLPA contends it is legal to cut a salary only to bring in another player whose salary would put the team over the cap. The NFLPA has asked for an expedited ruling on the matter, but a date hasn't been set.

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