Last August, players in the North American Soccer League voted 271 to 94 to be represented by a union headed by Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFL Players Association. A week later the National Labor Relations Board duly recognized Garvey's NASL Players Association as the players' exclusive bargaining agent. This supposedly obliged NASL owners to negotiate with the new union, but they refused. The NLRB will hold a hearing into the matter on May 4, and protracted legal action seems likely.
Unwilling to wait for the matter to inch through the courts, the union called a strike last week after its membership approved such an action by a vote of 252-113. But the question remained: How many players would actually stay on the sidelines during Saturday's full schedule of 12 games? Foreign players comprise 55% of NASL rosters and to help them make up their minds, Garvey circulated a reminder from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service that by law aliens working during a strike are subject to deportation. For their part, owners combed the sandlots for what they called "contingency" players.
As things turned out, all games were played, with 17 of the NASL's 24 clubs at or near full strength. Before a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Tulsa Roughnecks, Yugoslavs on the Rochester Lancers urgently phoned to find out if countryman Vladislav Bogicevic had taken the field for the Cosmos against the Atlanta Chiefs. Bogicevic had done so, so the Rochester fence-straddlers went ahead and played, too. But seven clubs were seriously depleted by the strike. When 16 of 23 players of the aptly named Fort Lauderdale Strikers failed to appear for a game against the Washington Diplomats, Ron Newman, the club's 44-year-old coach, played, coughing and panting, alongside his 21-year-old son Guy, a reserve defender who had also been called into action because of the strike. The Strikers lost 4-0.
It remains to be determined whether any foreign players who crossed picket lines—and most did—will be deported, but by eagerly raising the possibility. Garvey scarcely advanced the cause of harmony within his fledgling union. On the other hand, Derek Carroll, president of the New England Tea Men, didn't distinguish himself when he said on behalf of the owners, "We're all in favor of a union, but not this union." The fact was that Garvey's union was the one selected by the players and, like it or not, owners in every other major sport negotiate with unions of their players' choosing. At a time when it is claiming to be the pro league of tomorrow, the NASL's labor practices somehow seem very reminiscent of yesterday.
THE SOUTH AFRICAN CONNECTION
Five South Africans who expected to run in the Boston Marathon were banned from officially doing so after the AAU warned the marathon's organizers that their presence would make other participants ineligible for international competition. South Africa belongs to neither the Olympic movement nor the International Amateur Athletic Federation, having been drummed out of both because of its apartheid policies.
This raises the question of how the University of Alabama's Jonty Skinner and Villanova's Sydney Maree, both South Africans, managed to compete in recent years in the AAU swimming and track championships, respectively. AAU Executive Director Ollan Cassell offers a rather complicated explanation. He says that while South Africans may participate in the U.S. in strictly domestic competition or in college meets, they may not take part in "international competition." Because swimming authorities define international competition as only those events in which athletes represent their countries. Skinner was able to enter AAU championships as a member of his club, Central Jersey Aquatics. The rule in track is more restrictive, banning South Africans regardless of whom they represent. But Cassell says that when Maree ran for the Philadelphia Pioneers in the 1978 AAU championships (he was runner-up in the 1,500-meter run to Steve Scott), officials didn't realize he was a South African. The fact that Maree is a black South African may have contributed to the oversight. At any rate, Cassell says, "He shouldn't have been allowed to compete. It was a mistake."
A BLEAT FOR THE SHEEP MEADOW
New York's Central Park contains an open grassy area known as the Sheep Meadow that is frequented by kite flyers, picnickers, strollers, stargazers, folk dancers, cross-country skiers, lovers, softball players and muggers. What the Sheep Meadow doesn't have is sheep. Sheep used to graze there and were penned in a sheepfold at the edge of the park, but city officials banished the animals in 1934. The sheepfold has since been converted into a posh restaurant, Tavern on the Green.