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'Let's get back to playing football'
Bud Shrake
July 22, 1968
So said John Gordy, president of the NFL Players' Association, and the owners heartily agreed. And when they got together in New York it took them only 4� hours to end the players' strike—or was it the owners' lockout?
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July 22, 1968

'let's Get Back To Playing Football'

So said John Gordy, president of the NFL Players' Association, and the owners heartily agreed. And when they got together in New York it took them only 4� hours to end the players' strike—or was it the owners' lockout?

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But the issue that brought the strike (or lockout) about was the pension fund. The players felt the owners had not been truthful in saying the fund was non-contributory, when the money for it came from the championship game, endorsements and the All-Star Game. Moreover, the players insisted on a pension plan comparable to baseball's. "Ours is so inferior it's outrageous," said Robinson. "We don't want to match baseball but we'd like to have ours at a decent level." However, at times debate wasn't at that level. At one players' meeting the pension of Walter (No Neck) Williams, the utility outfielder for the Chicago White Sox, was the chief topic. "When we heard what No Neck's going to get, we voted to beat him up and take his share," said one NFL player.

However, after the first telephone vote authorizing a strike, communications failed between the bulk of the players and Gordy. "They sent out a white paper from player headquarters in New York which detailed our grievances and told what we were to vote on," said Tackle Bob Wetoska of the Chicago Bears. "The only trouble was that it arrived in the mail two days after the vote was taken. I don't mean that the players didn't have a general understanding of what it was all about, but when somebody calls you up at 5:30 in the morning and wants you to vote on something, you're bound to be a little fuzzy-headed about it. And this is the way it worked all over the country. When 16 ball clubs are concerned and there are 80 or so guys making phone calls in the middle of the night, there could be some miscommunication."

Worse than that, before the confused players had a chance to throw picket lines around their training camps, the owners beat them to it by shutting the camps down indefinitely, which meant about 24 hours, for their next move was to reopen them to rookies and free agents. In turn, many of the veterans established their own training camps—what might be called Freedom Camps.

But last week it appeared that the players' resolve was weakening, mostly because all they knew was what they read in the papers, which was that the owners had conceded on 20 out of the 21 points. Whereupon the Players' Association called several press conferences to show solidarity and the owners agreed to the confrontation at the Waldorf. After only 4� hours, the new pension plan was revealed: a 10-year veteran, for example, will get $1,600 a month when he reaches 65, compared to $750 a month under the previous agreement. As Gordy had said, "It's about time the players sat down as players and the owners sat down as owners and reached a final agreement. Let's get down to the business of playing football." For once he was coming in loud and clear and everyone got the message.

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