The National Football League Players Association and the pro football owners ratified a multimillion dollar labor contract yesterday that will provide peace in the NFL for the next five years.
In Washington player representatives from 25 teams (three teams were not represented) voted unanimously to accept the agreement that will provide more than $100 million in salaries, benefits and damages to the players.
The entire union membership of 785 players now ill vote on the proposal and their approval is expected. Ballots will go out no later than March 7, and the final vote should be in within 10 days after that.
The owners, meeting in New York, also agreed to the proposal. The announcement was made of acceptance by both sides simultaneously in New York and Washington at approximately 7 p.m., thus ending three years of often bitter negotiations.
The agreement will be submitted to Federal District Judge Earl B. Larson who ruled in Minneapolis approximately two years ago that the players reserve clause was a violation of federal antitrust laws.
The contract calls for a modified college drafto f12 rounds, as opposed to 17 rounds of previous years. There also are provisions for a new player who is not satisfied with his contract to either sit out a season and be drafted again; or accept the minimum contract for one season and then become a free agent.
There are new minimum salaries, with a five-year player making at least $30,000. Minimum salaries for rookies will be $20,000 per year.
There also is a modified Rozelle Rule, with only draft choices, not players, awarded as compensation to teams which lose players who play out their options and join other clubs.
The contract includes a structure, based on salary of the players involved, for compensation. Teams losing players in the $50,000-$65,000-a year range would be awarded a third-round draft choice; players in the $65,000-$75,000 range a second round choice and $75,000-$125,000 a first-round choice.
There is a "first-refusal" claus under which a player's old club may retain him by matching the salary offered by a new team.
The agreement provides for an agency shop, requiring all players to pay union dues whether or not they want to become members of the association. Dues will be deducted from the players' paychecks, insuring stability of the union for the duration of the contract.
"It's a unique, innovative approach to try and help the least-paid middle-range player to get more money," said players association executive director Ed Garvey. "I think it's a fair agreement for both sides. We've helped 75 to 85 per cent of our players considerably."
Garvey said there will be $50 million in benefits paid in the pension fund, retroactive to 1974-1975.
The NFL owners will pay $16 million as a damage settlement of players' lawsuits and legal fees. Payoffs for the Super Bowl, conference and divisional championships have also been increased. The Super Bowl winners will get $18,000 each, the losers $9,000 each.
Both teams involved in the respective conference championships games will each get $9,000 per man and players in the divisional championship games will get $5,000 each.
There also is a provision for impartial arbitration for injury ad other grievances.
"It's been a long time in coming," said player association president Dick Anderson of the Dolphins. "The players are still happy at this point. I feel confident our players will approve it, but that still remains to be seen."
"If you heard a little noise back there, the clapping you heard was for Ed Garvey, added Len Hauss of the Redskins, the union's vice president. "Without him, we as players and our union would be in sad shape."