The North American Soccer League Players Association ended its strike against the club owners yesterday and asked its members to return to playing immediately.
The five-day-old strike lost much of its support Tuesday afternoon when the Immigration and Naturalization Service, apparently switching its position, declared that foreign players with proper work visas could not be deported for playing during the strike.
NASLPA Executive Director Ed Garvey said the association's board members decided to call off the strike because of the "ineptitude of the government, causing confusion among the foreign players.
"Last Friday, we got a ruling from the INS that foreigners who played in games last weekend during the strike were subject to deportation," said Garvey. "They told us clearly what the law stated. Then suddenly, the government reverses its decision and said no action would be taken against aliens who had received visas before the strike.
"With so much confusion, the player reps decided to call off the strike because nothing the governmnent says can be taken seriously," said Garvey. "In good conscience, we can't ask our members to remain on strike.
"I'm disappointed, but I'm proud of the guys who stayed out. They're going back to work until we can sort this thing out."
Garvey and the NASPLA maintained throughout the strike that deportation was not an issue.
The league's 24 owners have refused to recognize the union since it was formed two years ago.
Garvey said the NASPLA has not given up on that fight and would continue to pursue the matter through the National Labor Relation Board and the courts.
"Right now, we plan to pursue the fight for recognition in Canada, where the labor laws are more effective," said Garvey. "Perhaps Canada can set a pattern for everyone else."
Canadian law does not permit strikes for union recognition. There are three teams in Canada-Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto.
"This strike became an immigrant question rather the real issue of recognition of the union," said Garvey. "But it wouldn't be fair for our strongest people to remain on strike and be subjected to intimidation and pressure when the union is receiving conflicting reports from federal government agencies.
"We think it's time for the government to get its own house straightened out before we get ours in order."
Even before the announcement of the end of the strike, several clubs had reported striking players returning to practice.
The Washington Diplomats' players took the news rather nonchalantly.
"It was rather silly, anyway," said goalie Bill Irwin. "It didn't accomplish anything, did it?"
"I'm glad it's over," added winger Bobby Stokes, who was listed as the plaintiff in a suit against the INS that brought about the agency's latest ruling on foreign players. "Now we can prepare for Rochester."
The Dips play in Rochester Sunday at 3 p.m.
Coach Gordon Bradley said the five striking Diplomats - Sonny Askew, Robert Askew, Don Droege, Carmen Marcantonio and player representative Bobby Sterler - would not be penalized.
"We're glad to have them back," Bradley said following yesterday's workout. "Bobby and Don are especially needed in the back, especially with Ane Mihailovich hurt now. They're still fit, I'm sure. And, they'll probably start Sunday."