Fines for solidarity handshakes exchanged by National Football League players at exhibition games last weekend will range from the half-game's salary imposed by the Seattle Seahawks to nothing. Only the Cleveland Browns say they will not follow the Management Council's directive that players be fined for the act of "fraternization."
Ed Garvey, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, said the handshakes will continue this weekend. He said it was a message to management to resume bargaining, and he told the Associated Press that if management did not "get the message," the union would consider work stoppages at some training camps.
On Capitol Hill, where the NFL is seeking the passage of legislation that would provide limited exemption from antitrust laws, Commissioner Pete Rozelle said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the league is ready to expand from 28 to 30 teams, but would not do so without the exemptions.
"If this bill passes, there will be a strike," Garvey told United Press International. Garvey said passage would cause the league to "harden their position" in labor negotiations, something Rozelle previously has denied.
Around the league yesterday, the fines were the major topic of conversation after the players' handshaking display of solidarity before 12 of 13 preseason games.
In Seattle, Coach Jack Patera followed through on a threat he issued the previous week and fined his players half of their first-game paycheck, or one-32nd of their salary. Players' salaries are based on 16 regular-season games. Thus, quarterback Jim Zorn, who makes an estimated $300,000, stands to lose more than $9,000.
In Cleveland, a team spokesman said there were no fines imposed, but owner Art Modell, in Kirtland, Ohio, said players would be fined if they exchanged handshakes before Thursday night's game with the Los Angeles Rams. Several other teams, including the Detroit Lions, had not made a decision by last night.
Redskins General Manager Bobby Beathard talked to the Management Council, which informed him most teams were fining players $100, and to owner Jack Kent Cooke. "Right now, that's what we plan to do. It will be worked out," said Beathard.
"The fine is ridiculous," said Mark Murphy, the player representative. "They are basing it on us disturbing the game. But we did it before the game. You might point out I saw (Miami Coach) Don Shula shaking hands with a few of our coaches before the game and I didn't see anybody fine him."
A Detroit spokesman said, "We haven't fined anybody yet, but if the rest of the teams do, we will."
General Manager Ernie Accorsi said the Baltimore Colts will fine their players $100 after their handshaking with the New York Giants drew loud boos from a crowd of 31,985 before a 19-14 victory Saturday night at Memorial Stadium. Curtis Dickey, Barry Krauss and rookie running back Larry Powell did not participate and won't be fined.
The Management Council, the league's labor negotiating arm, informed the players last week they would be fined at least $100 for any violation of the antifraternization rule. Only players from Los Angeles and Denver did not participate, reportedly because the Broncos were undecided about the gesture.
"I thought it was a very impressive display," Garvey said yesterday after testifying. "It went very well. Obviously, now that it has been so successful, the league is saying it's no big deal."
Since the fines were announced, the NFLPA has filed an unfair labor practice grievance on behalf of the players.
A spokesman for the NFL said from New York the fining "was a Management Council position" and that the league has taken no action against Cleveland for failing to fine its players.
Garvey testified on legislation introduced by Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) that would grant antitrust exemptions on franchise relocations and the already existing practice of sharing television and playoff and Super Bowl revenues. DeConcini's state is one hoping to get a team when the league expands, although Rozelle said yesterday no area has been promised an expansion team.
The relocation measure would apply retroactively to the Oakland Raiders case, in which a federal jury last May cleared the way for the team to move to Los Angeles. A second measure, sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), would require teams to prove they are losing money or have an inadequate stadium before moving.
"When we get the legislation, I'm going to appoint an expansion committee because I think we're ready to go from 28 to 30 teams," said Rozelle. He said the league has received franchise applications from Birmingham, Jacksonville, Memphis, Phoenix, San Antonio and Indianapolis.
Rozelle told the committee the NFL wants to control the location of franchises before it approves new ones. "We don't want to pick a city and then have the team move out," he said.
There was surprisingly little reaction to Patera's huge fines from Seattle players, according to a source at their training camp at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash.
"The players are saying they knew what the fine was going to be, they knew what they were getting into and they decided to go ahead," the source said. "There haven't been any complaints."
Zorn, a seven-year veteran, had said earlier his religous beliefs opposed any union dealings, but he went ahead with the handshaking in the spirit of team unity.
"In going against their coaches' request for no signs of solidarity before the games, many of the players believed that they will get the money they were fined back, through the Players Association," Garvey said.
"They'll probably get it back, but they had to trust us," he added. "I'm told it was an emotional meeting in Seattle. It was a real challenge to the owners and put the coaches under a lot of pressure. I'm sure they didn't want to tell their players not to do it."