Most members of the Washington Diplomats said yesterday they would oppose a strike against the North American Soccer League.
The Diplomats were informally polled by the Washington Post yesterday following their final practice for today's game against the Atlanta Chiefs at 2:30 p.m. at RFK Stadium. Sentiment was approximately 4 to 1 against the strike.
Owners of the 24 NASL clubs told the players association Friday they would not recognize the group as a union. That prompted Ed Garvey, the executive director of the NASLPA, to begin proceedings for a strike vote.
Formal strike votes of the clubs will be taken in the next two weeks. Two third of the approximately 480 NASL soccer players would have to approve for a strike to be called.
"There's no way we can go on strike," said the Diplomats' Paul Cannell. "I don't think the league is ready for it yet. I've seen what unions can do over in England and I'm not a big believer in strikes.
"This union has started to do some good things and I feel it is in a position now to help a player in trouble. But right now, we're getting two stories, one from management and one from the union."
The Diplomats' player representative, Bob Stetler, estimated that only about one-third of his teammates are members of the association. He said one reason they are antistrike at the moment is "fear of retaliation" by management."
"Everyone has his own individual situation and they must worry about themselves," said Stetler, the backup goalkeeper. "Once the players have sat down together and discussed it with Garvey, things will be different."
At this point, many of the Dips do not feel a strike would be successful. Even if it did get off the ground, they believe it would cause irrevocable damage to the league.
"No one wants to strike. It would only hurt soccer," said defender Don Droege, the alternate player representative. "We only want to be recognized as a union. No one knows who or what to believe right now."
Droege, Cannell and several of the other players said they have not been threatened with deportation or retaliation in any way by the washington management. Other players say management has, indeed, tried some subtle intimidation tactics.
"Management still has the upper hand in every aspect of the game except they can't do without us," said one player. "In our meetings with John Carbray (Diplomat general manager), he told us what might happen if we decided to strike. I thrugh he was intimidating us, but this team would not vote for a strike because we have too many management people here, anyway."
Carbray said he "threatened no one, but merely explained to the players what the law concerning deportation was.
"I'd be happy to sit down with any of the players and discuss it," said Carbray. "We can't deport anyone and the players know that. Besides, it would cost me money to pay their way home."
The Diplomats' coach, Gordon Bradley, has not discussed the situation with his players but admitted some "concern."
"I really don't want to get into it but I know the players don't want to strike," said Bradley. "But if they do, they won't be letting players come into the country. I'd be worried about Ken Mokgojoa. He's finishing his final season in South Africa and now can't report until after April."
Bradley has other things on his mind.
Because of injuries, the Dips (1-0) will make a couple of changes for today's game with the Chiefs. Forward Mike Bakic sprained an ankle and midfielder Sakib Viteskic suffered a pulled groin muscle in the Dips' 2-1 overtime victory over Fort Lauderdale last Sunday.
Either Sony Askew or Danny Molendyk will move into a forward spot along with Bobby Stokes and Alan Green. Should Viteskic not play, Bradley said he may move Askew into the midfield position. Bradley also said he would like to give Cannell, nearly recovered from a leg operation, some playing time.
The Chiefs, playing their first game of the year, will look to Jeff Bourne, Jomo Sono and Nino Zec for scoring punch. Atlanta, formerly the Colorado Caribous, finished 8-22 last year and was last in the league in total point (81).