The North American Soccer League Players Association is expected to call a strike against team owners today for failing to recognize the union. The players association "will have an official statement at 11 a.m. on Friday if there is going to be a strike," union spokesman Mark Berowstein said yesterday.
However, a telephone poll of the Washington Diplomat players last night indicated that, although they voted, 15-7, in favor of a strike earlier this week, most of them would play in Fort Lauderdale Saturday night.
"Today starts it," said the Dips' player representative, Bobby Stetler. "We will see who's right and who's wrong. Some games (around the league) will be played and some won't this weekend.
"We're calling a strike. Now we'll see what happens."
Stetler said the Dips' management employed what he termed "an unfair labor practice" to get some players to change their minds.
"On Wednesday, management began calling in players one by one and some, out of fear, changed their positions."
Realizing that a strike would mean no pay, some of the Dips relented and decided to play.
"I voted in favor of the strike then because I believed in it," said Washington defender Mike Dillon. "Everybody's got different reasons why they'll play and why they won't play. I have my reasons and I plan to play."
"The union tells me I'll get paid if I strike," said another player. "(Diplomat President Steve) Danzansky tells me something else. I'll play for the man who gives me the check. I've been assured nothing will happen to me if I play. It seems a shame that some players will support the strike just when they're beginning to play well."
"The strike means nothing to me whatsoever," said defender Tommy O'Hara. "I've been against a strike all the time. I don't think it will affect our team. Only a handful of guys will not play."
According to informed sources, only six Dips, including Stetler, plan to support the strike.
"Some big names will be missing from the lineup," Stetler said. "But one way or another, Washington will be able to field a traveling team for the game."
A spokesman for the Atlanta Chiefs, who host the undefeated Cosmos Saturday, said his players voted yesterday not to participate in a strike. The Atlanta Constitution reported the vote was 12-6 against honoring a walkout.
The Cosmos, the power of the NASL, reportedly voted, 20-2, in favor of a strike. Sources said nearly 70 percent of the union's members approved a strike.
Derek Carroll, chairman of the club owers' labor relations committee, issued a statement in New York City that said, "Based on reports from representatives of the players association, we understand that the NASLPA will announce a strike. We deplore the action when there are legal issues (including the owners' recognition of the union) still pending before the National Labor Relations Board.
"We believe that many of the (foreign) players have been misled into believing they will be deported if they play in the face of a strike called by the union.
"The Immigration and Naturalization Service regulations on which the union is relying do not say the players will be deported if they cross a picket line to play."
Berowstein, an assistant to players union chief Ed Garvey, said, "We have never, ever told players they would be deported if they crossed a picket line.
"In essence, management has threatened to deport foreign players if they do not work (during a strike)."
A source close to U.S. District Court reported the club owners were considering seeking a restraining order to prevent the union from allegedly warning foreign players they might be deported.
The Diplomats have 16 foreign players.
It was learned that one of the Diplomats' best players of last season, forward Ken Mokgojoa, flew into Washington last night from South Africa, where he had been playing.
It would have been illegal for Mokgojoa to enter the country after a strike had been called.