Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said yesterday he now expects the NFL to concentrate its efforts on getting an antitrust exemption from Congress in the wake of a federal court decision that said the league was wrong to forbid the Oakland Raiders from moving to Los Angeles.
"I think it's going to really intensify their effort on the Hill," Garvey said. "And I also think it brings into question their no-compromise attitude they've historically taken, in this case and in every case they've had.
"I don't think it will have a direct impact on our collective bargaining for a new contract, but it may in the long term affect their decision-making process. Pete Rozelle and their attorneys have always refused to talk settlement. They have more money and more lawyers than you do, so they never compromise.
"They always try to go full speed ahead and try to win. That's also been their approach to collective bargaining. Their philosophy seems to be the union will destroy itself with internal dissension eventually, so let's keep putting them off. They hard-line it."
Garvey said there are indications that the league is working toward getting an antitrust exemption bill introduced next week. He said he did not know who would be sponsoring the bill, but that the league's message to Congress will be "if the bill had been in effect, the poor fans of Oakland wouldn't be losing their football team."
Asked last night if the league did indeed plan to increase its efforts with Congress, Rozelle told The Washington Post, "We'll be working on it, yes. We don't think that Congress wants franchises folded up and moved."
The NFL has argued that without an antitrust exemption, expansion is difficult. Under antitrust laws, the league can be sued by cities and persons not receiving franchises.
The union believes antitrust legislation would give the NFL a broad exemption that could, for example, give the league the right to negotiate pay-television contracts as a single entity without getting a special exemption. The union also argues that antitrust laws would make it impossible for players to sue the league over issues such as the draft, reserve rules and option clauses.
"I think the court decision on the Raiders means a lot more work for us as a union," Garvey said yesterday. "We're going to fight the antitrust exemption, and I'm sure they'll be putting all their resources into it now."
Garvey indicated that, in March, the league had wanted the antitrust legislation to be made retroactive to include the Raiders case. "I don't know if they'll still be pushing for retroactivity," he said.
Garvey said he was not surprised by the court decision in the Raiders case, and that undoubtedly it would be only a matter of time until the Raiders move to Los Angeles. "I'd be surprised if the court would permit the move pending appeals," he said, "but they will be the Los Angeles Raiders eventually."
Maxwell Blecher, attorney for the Los Angeles Coliseum, which sued the NFL along with the Raiders, said he hoped the Raiders would be playing in the Coliseum by next season.
"The broad implication is that we've busted up this monopoly into little territories," he said. "It's a good thing for all sports. The NFL's policy is not consistent with the free enterprise system.
"At this point, we want the Raiders. The irony is that at some point in time we would have been placated by an expansion team. But we're going to savor this victory and we're going to hang tough.
"There would be no problems at all moving the Raiders here next season. They've already agreed to play one year just the way the field is now. Eventually, everything is going to be remodeled, for the Olympics (in 1984) and for the Raiders. Everything will be done that has to be done. "The important thing, the league used its policy to lock teams into areas that were unfavorable to them. They can't do that any more."
In a prepared statement, Los Angeles County Supervisor Pete Schabarum, a member of the L.A. Coliseum Commission, advised fans against expecting to see the Raiders in Los Angeles soon.
"I fully expect a challenge of the verdict, which means more lengthy court suits, delaying the return of professional football to Los Angeles," he said.
Los Angeles Mayor Thomas Bradley implored the NFL not to appeal the verdict.
In a prepared statement, he said, "The federal court's decision . . . confirms what the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission has contended from the very beginning, that it should be allowed to find a new professional football team to replace the departed Los Angeles Rams (who moved to Anaheim, 35 miles from the Coliseum, in 1980).
"Rather than going through a long and costly appeals process, which would leave the Coliseum without a professional football team for another season or two, I would hope that the parties involved will quickly settle this issue to the benefit of all concerned."