The National Football League would like the public to believe that it is vigilantly safeguarding pro football from any possible taint. This image does not always coincide with the facts. Take the case of Johnny Robinson, an All-Pro safety for the Kansas City Chiefs. He owns half the stock in a corporation which last December bought a Kansas City swim and tennis club from one Edward P. Osadchey. As president of the corporation, Robinson signed a promissory note for $275,000 to be paid back to Osadchey and his wife at 8% interest over a nine-year period.
Osadchey, also known as Eddie Spitz, has two convictions, the most recent in 1964 when he and four others were convicted of conspiring to defraud the Government of taxes on alcohol while operating the very club Robinson bought. In 1950 Osadchey was identified by a federal grand jury as involved in six separate gambling operations in Kansas City. Last year he was one of 54 men listed by the Kansas City Crime Commission as "clearly members of the Kansas City Syndicate, fellow travelers, cronies or associates or dupes of the 'outfit.' "
Nonetheless, after an investigation following Robinson's request for league approval of the deal, the NFL "determined that the transaction [was] nothing more than a simple purchase of property and [that there was] no sufficient cause for taking drastic action or directing Robinson to divest himself of the property."
The NFL's investigation was conducted by Eugene Waechter, a former FBI agent who works for the league part-time. Waechter's other occupation is assistant to the president of Pro-Forma, Inc., which has a number of pro athletes, including 30 Chief players, under contract for commercials, endorsements, etc. The president of Pro-Forma is Jim Tyrer, the Chiefs' offensive tackle.
When questioned by Harry Jones Jr. of The Kansas City Times, Waechter said no conflict of interest was involved. Jim Kensil, the NFL's executive director, agreed, stating it was advantageous to have an investigator who was close to the players.
The Kansas City Crime Commission, which made its own investigation of the transaction, advised the NFL that the deal "was not in the best interests of professional football or the Kansas City Chiefs." The league's intemperate reply: "It is unfortunate that a volunteer organization should see fit to issue self-serving statements which tend to confuse rather than clarify the situation."
At the risk of being similarly rebuked, let us clarify. First, it is surely ill-advised to employ as an investigator one whose livelihood is so closely connected with those of the players he may be called upon to investigate. Even more to the point, it would seem indefensible to permit a player—especially one in as sensitive a position as safety—to head a company in debt to an underworld character like Osadchey.
WHERE'S THE SUPREME COURT?
The University of California and the University of Arkansas will open the football season at Little Rock on Sept. 11. In their game contract is a sentence that reads: "The players must be eligible under the rules of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and their two respective conferences."