The head of the National Football League Players Association has accused the league of being a "monument to racism" and blamed Commissioner Pete Rozelle for helping perpetuate the alleged discrimination.
Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFLPA, made the charges in a blistering, six-page memo sent to player representatives of the 28 clubs, asking them to review a proposed press release repeating many of the allegations in the memo.
In the memo and proposed release, printed yesterday in the Boston Globe, Garvey criticized the scarcity of blacks in NFL management and coaching positions.
"One must look at the NFL as a racist institution," he wrote in the memo. "We beat around the bush, but what other conclusion can you reach when there are no head coaches who ar black, no offensive or defensive coordinators, no general managers, no owners and no one of consequence in the NFL office?"
No more than 10 of the 290 assistant coaches in the league are black, he said.
Noting that Rozelle has said he has urged the clubs to hire "qualified" blacks, Garvey also wrote in the memo, "Rozelle stressed the word 'qualified,' which is an obvious catch-word for any racist to mask his policy of discrimination."
He also chared that Rozelle is "responsible for a consistent pattern of racism in the league."
In response to the acccusations, an NFL spokeman issued this statement yesterday: "We have been aware for some time of Ed Garvey's hysterical tirade and his solicitation of some NFL player representatives for support in the face of criticism of his leadership by certain players and their agents.
"It is deplorable that he would utilize as a red herring such a sensitive subject and combine this with personal attacks showing his usual discregard for facts and objectivity."
The spokesman said Rozelle concurred with the NFLissued statement.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Garvey said he wrote the Oct. 9 memo because of "the fact that the vast majority of players who are fined by the commissioner's office are black and the fact that there is a continuing pattern of discrimination in hiring practices.
"I just felt it was time to get a statement out to the player reps so they could discuss it."
Gravey said the player representatives are still gathering reaction from teammates to the proposed press release. They have the options of endorsing, modifying or rejecting it.
Jean Fugett, the Redskin player representative, said he endorsed the concept of a press release, but asked that it be made stronger "not in language but by more specific documentation, to make the case as strong as it could be." b
Fugett added that, while he discussed the memo at a team meeting, the Washington team, as a group, took no position.
"The fundamental problem is the number of blacks who cannot expect a future in football once their playing career is over," Garvey said, adding that he has urged Rozelle to initiate an "affirmative action" program in the NFL.
By "affirmative action," he said, "I think (management) should sit down and work out some sort of a schedule for the hiring of blacks in different positions in the NFL, particularly those that relate directly to players.
"I don't know what percentage would be a fair one. But if half the players in the league are black and a very small percentage of assistant coaches, and no head coaches, no general managers, no public relations men that I know of are black. I think it is a situation that cries out for some sort of affirmative action."
Much of Garvey's memo dealt with fines to black players, including a $2,000 fine imposed on New England Patriot cornerback Raymond Clayborn, who allegedly punched a white Boston Globe columnist. Garvey claimed the fine was racially motivated.
Garvey, who is white, also criticized $5,000 fines assessed former Miami Dolphin linemen Randy Crowder and Don Reese each after they had served a one-year prison term on cocaine charges.
"While the record in other sports is bad." he wrote in the proposed press release, "the NFL is a monument to racism in professional team sports."