A SUBJECT FOR PROTEST
The Commonwealth of Nations consists of 49 countries and a billion people, united by history and a sentimental allegiance to the British Crown. Every four years since 1930—excepting the years 1942 and '46—athletes from those members have met at the Commonwealth Games. At this year's games, just concluded in Edinburgh, a boycott by 32 Third World countries, protesting British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's refusal to impose economic sanctions on South Africa, left a heavy emptiness. In addition, many of the athletes who did attend the games chose to boycott Thatcher's official visit to Meadowbank Stadium last Friday.
This disruption of the games, which ordinarily constitute the friendliest of international sports festivals, frustrated both athletes and officials. Mike Fennell, who is Jamaica's representative to the Commonwealth Sports Federation and whose country joined the boycott, said in exasperation, "We must get a commitment from the politicians to leave the games alone in the future." Fennell's demand is unrealistic. Members of the CSF considered appealing to the 49 heads of government for just such a cut-and-dried pledge during meetings this week in London. There was immediate dissent. As federation members realized that such a proposal would be futile, support for the pledge drive diminished. The CSF membership eventually approved a watered-down appeal. By week's end it was decided that Commonwealth of Nations secretary general Sir Sonny Ramphal would "carry the view" of the sporting body, but wouldn't actually request a formal pledge from governments.
Even as the Commonwealth Games were limping along, another antiapartheid protest occurred across the North Sea. In a predawn raid following the first round of the Dutch Open, activists stole onto the Noordwijk Golf Course and tore up three greens with shovels. Fliers with the words BREAK ALL SPORTS CONTACTS WITH SOUTH AFRICA were found scattered on the course. The 3rd and 11th greens were so badly damaged that second-round play in the tournament was limited to just 16 holes.
The reason for the protest: Two players in the tournament held South African passports—one, Hugh Baiocchi, had entered the Netherlands on an Italian passport; the other, Philip Simmons, on an Australian—and two other players were said to have residences in South Africa. It was not, by a long shot, the first time that outrage over apartheid had spilled over into golf. Two decades ago a young South African golfer, Gary Player, sometimes needed a police escort when he competed in the U.S.
A BARGAINING CHIP NO MORE
Although NFL owners were elated about the $1 jury award to the USFL in its antitrust suit (page 18), their players felt otherwise. With that verdict and the USFL's subsequent decision to suspend operations, one of their primary bargaining chips in contract negotiations is gone. Take the cases of Tony Casillas, the Atlanta Falcons first-round draft choice, and free agent Stump Mitchell, the St. Louis Cardinals running back who gained 1,006 yards last season, both of whom recently signed NFL contracts.
Three weeks ago, Casillas and Mitchell claimed to be on the brink of signing with the USFL's Arizona Outlaws. " Arizona has been very congenial to Lisa [his wife] and me," Casillas said after agreeing "in principle" to a four-year, $2.3 million contract with the Outlaws and beginning workouts at the team's three-day minicamp. When told that the Falcons were sending someone to Phoenix to continue negotiations, Casillas commented, "Really, I don't think it's worth their time to come out." Mitchell, who had also reached one of those Arizona "in principle" agreements, was even more blunt: "I'm an Outlaw now."
Within five days of these brash statements both Casillas and Mitchell spurned the Outlaws and signed with their respective NFL teams. Casillas's contract with the Falcons was reportedly for four years and $2.35 million, while Mitchell's with the Cardinals was for three years and $1.2 million, both figures far in excess of the last offers made by those teams. Both players cooed over their new contracts, allowing that the NFL was really where they wanted to be all along.
With the end of the USFL's lawsuit—and probably the end of the USFL—players have seen the bargaining chips used so masterfully by Casillas and Mitchell snatched away. Quarterback Jack Trudeau, the Indianapolis Colts second-round draft choice, had been threatening to sign with the USFL but agreed to a Colts' offer within 48 hours of the verdict. And L.A. Rams coach John Robinson speculates that the court's ruling will help him keep fourth-year wide receiver Henry Ellard, who has been making noises about signing with the Outlaws.