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The NFL owners have always been fearful that the Players' Association would abuse its union power, as some unions have done in other industries, and were thus reluctant to give any ground. Both sides were convinced of the merit of their respective positions. The AFL Players' Association, undoubtedly aided by the situation in the NFL, was able to negotiate a settlement with the AFL owners without resorting to strike tactics. The only way matters can be permanently and justly resolved is by the players of both leagues jointly negotiating with an owner group from both leagues.
By terms of the NFL-AFL merger, player benefits and financial arrangements between the various clubs are to be standardized by 1970. Therefore, whatever is transacted between either group of players-owners affects the other group.
Those who oppose a merged Players' Association negotiating with a merged owners' group cite the fact that different financial situations exist in the two leagues. The AFL owners, whose teams earn smaller revenues than their NFL counterparts, claim that they would be unable to meet the demands of the NFL Players' Association; the NFL players, knowing this, do not wish to be burdened with the AFL Players' Association and have refused to pursue the formation of a merged players' group.
The solution is going to be found only when the players and owners in each league develop an understanding of the problems of the others. To wit:
The AFL owners have always told their players that they would not suffer financially by playing in the AFL. Thus the owners should not expect their players to accept less than NFL players. The AFL owners must consider the increased financial burden as an additional admission cost of merging with the NFL.
The players of the NFL should appreciate the position of the AFL owners and should have tempered their demands accordingly. After all, all football players have benefited by the formation of the AFL and, I believe, will benefit by the merger.
Divergent groups, divergent views. And, until they all get together in one room, controversy is likely to continue. For instance, now that the NFL dispute has been settled the AFL players will complain about the superior preseason pay and higher minimum wage existing in the NFL.
The agents of rookie football players will attempt to bring an antitrust action, claiming that players drafted by AFL teams are forced to receive less in the way of financial benefits than they could realize if drafted by an NFL team.
Controversy and trouble—and all because four groups with similar interests will not sit down in one room.
Until sound leadership is shown, resulting in a single meeting of all interested parties, strikes by athletes are likely to become commonplace.