The desire of the Los Angeles Rams to acquire Joe Namath could extend beyond the highly paid quarterback's right arm.
Namath is considered the perfect buffer between whites and black: a person both races find easy to deal wity; someone capable of healing recial wounds.
And the Rams have has their share of problems, particularly after black quarterback James Harris was benched.
The Rams were given permission Friday by the New York Jets to try and make a deal with Namath.
Whether Namath's physical talents are still relatively comparable to those of No. 1 quarterback Pat Haden or Harris, National Football Conference passing champion, is questionable. But he gets on with teammates, white and black.
Namath says he wants to play for the Rams and the Jets want to unload his estimated $450,000 annual salary and get on with rebuilding under a new coach.
One source said of Namath, "He would stabilize the Ram's race relations. They have had a big problem over Harris with the fans and with the black-oriented press in the Los Angeles area."
The Los Angeles Times recently carried a series of articles about alleged dissension in the Ram's organization traced largely to the race issue.
"The blacks on the Jets love Namath," the source said. "His best friends are (defensive lineman) Richard Neal and (wide receiver) Jerome Barkum. He pals aroud with them.
"Chuck Knox (Rams head coach) and Ken Meyer (Rams' offensive coordinator) have to know this."
That was a reference to Knox, a former offensive line coach with the Jets, who knows Namath and his needs in the way of pass protection.
The Rams now have two experienced quarterbacks, one-season veteran Haden and seven-season veteran Harris. Ron Jaworski played out his option last year and rights to him were traded to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Don Klosterman general manager of the Rams said the Rams have been evaluating Namath by watching Jets' films.
Namath has been troubled with serious knee injuries for most of his 12 seassons with the Jets. He attempted 230 psses in 1976, completed 49.6 per cent, threw only four touchdowns, and was intercepted 16 times. He shared quarterback duties with rookie Richard Todd on a team that had a 3-11 record.
Namath's attorney, Jimmy Walsh, has been quoted as saying he would take a reduction is salary to play with the Rams. Namath would like to finish his career in the Los Angeles area because of his frequent work in television and movies.
He has a no-trade clause in his contract with Jets which attorney Walsh says the quarterback would waive to make a deal with the Rams.
The Jets have an option to keep Namath for another season if they want to exercise it, but Al Ward, general manager of the Jets, said he would not keep Namath from the Rams if a satisfactory deal can be made. No specifics of a trade have been proposed by either side.
Ward has given the Rams until Tuesday to make a decision on Namath so that if no deal is consumated the Jets can make related preparations for the draft of college players on or about May 1.
Six Los Angeles veterans other than Jaworski played out their options - wide receiver Harold Jackson, running back Cullen Bryant, middle linebacker Jack Reynolds, guard Tom Mack, placekicker Tom Dempsey and defensive back Steve Preece.
It is understood that the Jets would prefer any or all of the first four named, but the Rams likely would prefer to deal off draft choices because they already are a young team and have several extra draft choices through 1980.