Players from the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins ignored threats they'd be fined and shook hands at midfield tonight before their preseason game to show union solidarity.
The players waited until after the national anthem. Then the Redskins moved almost to midfield. The Dolphins hesitated at first, then left their bench. As the players shook hands, the fans in the Orange Bowl booed.
Solidarity handshakes were exchanged by opposing players at nine of 10 National Football League exhibition games Saturday, with the Los Angeles Rams and Denver Broncos the only teams not meeting at midfield before the kickoff.
In addition, there were several instances of players at other games who remained on the sidelines.
Fans in most stadiums booed the players.
Eight Dolphins, all rookies except veteran guard Bob Kuechenberg, remained on the sidelines. Every Redskin walked to midfield.
Before the game, Mark Murphy, the player representative for the Redskins, said he felt all his teammates knew that the Management Council had decreed that each player would be fined at least $100 for any union-sponsored gesture.
"Most players think the fine is a scare tactic," he said. "But if they fine us, we will get the money back eventually. The union will go to the National Labor Relations Board and ask for injunctive relief. The league tried to fine us in 1974 and we got the money back.
"As long as we don't disrupt the game, it's within our legal rights to show union strength."
Bobby Beathard, the general manager of the Redskins, has said the team will follow league policy and fine the players.
On Thursday night, Coach Joe Gibbs said in a team meeting that he would not ask management to fine the players.
"I thought Coach Gibbs handled this very professionally and very rationally," said Murphy after the game. "He told us that whatever we do, we should do it together. It showed a lot of class on his part."
Murphy also praised Jimmy Cefalo, Miami player representative: "I'm very proud of him. What's he's had to put up with this week (pressure from the Miami management), no man should have to go through."
As for the stuttering start to the handshake gesture, Murphy said that the teams "originally were going to come out to midfield for the coin toss. We just started to walk out and it took awhile for Miami to see what we were doing."
The Dolphins might have hesitated out of fear. Coach Don Shula strongly opposed the gesture.
Kuechenberg is not a union member and has outspokenly criticized its executive director, Ed Garvey, and its demand for a percentage of gross.
Ralph Levene of Miami was one of the fans who booed the ceremony. "I think it is foolish for the players to show solidarity this way," he said.
Said Delores Berwick of North Miami Beach: "What difference does it make if they shake hands before or after the game? If they were trying to make a statement, they didn't make it to me."
George Hart of Opa Locka said: "It stunk. Coming down here, I didn't object too strongly.
"But sitting here, with thousands of other fans watching a protest against management, doesn't make sense."