Al Davis, Los Angeles Raiders managing partner, who defeated the National Football League in court in a battle to move his team from Oakland, called yesterday for Commissioner Pete Rozelle to intercede in the strike by players. Davis also said both sides should agree to binding arbitration in the dispute.
In another development on the second day of the strike, it was learned that the NFL owners will receive at least $30 million in television rights for the games scheduled for the next two weeks, even if they are not played.
Davis, in town this week to testify in Congress and lobby against proposed antitrust legislation (supported by the NFL) that could return the Raiders to Oakland, said yesterday in an interview that the "system of negotiation is making it tough to reach a settlement."
"The idea should not be to defeat the players," said Davis, who usually runs against the tide in the NFL. He is aware that the league may impose a possible fine of up to $250,000 against any owner possibly damaging the negotiations.
"What we have is a system in which you have a committee (six owners) who have hired a negotiator (Jack Donlan). Then you have a gag rule which doesn't allow anyone else to make a contribution," Davis said.
"The intelligent thing to do is to see the situation as it exists and ask ourselves: 'What can we do to get this solved?' Yet I see one owner (San Diego's Gene Klein) say the season is over; and others suggesting the players ought to know who butters their bread; and we have others talking about getting new players to play under the banner of the NFL.
"To my thinking, that's not the way to approach this problem," he said. "The players are the game. We own it, but they play it. But we're told we can't let them come into our facilities for medical treatment. That's just stupid. They're our players; we should see that they get medical treatment."
Davis refused to speculate on how long the strike would last. But he said, "The commissioner should get into it now and there should be negotiations night and day. If that doesn't work, both sides should agree to a higher body which would be neutral and objective."
Rozelle was unavailable for comment yesterday, but a spokesman said he is monitoring the situation carefully, although he has no plans to become directly involved. No negotiations were held yesterday, and none are scheduled.
Joe Browne, the NFL's director of information, said union demands that Rozelle come to the bargaining table would undercut Donlan's authority as the official bargaining agent for the owners.
"He's not going to do that," Browne said. "He's the commissioner of the whole sport."
Also yesterday, the NFL formally called off tonight's game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Kansas City Chiefs, the first contest to be affected.
But even if the games for the next two weeks are wiped out, the NFL will receive the money it normally would have received from the three networks which televise games, said Art Modell of the Cleveland Browns, a member of the league's television committee.
"All 28 teams will receive full TV payments for two weeks," said Modell, "at least two weeks, maybe more. It's open-ended."
According to the Associated Press, Jim Heffernan, the NFL's director of public relations, confirmed that all three networks would pay the league for at least two weeks even if no games were played.
Modell said the five-year, $2.1 billion contract in March between the television networks and the league (which was looking ahead to a possible strike) called for such payments. Wire service reports quoted Modell as saying, "This isn't a gift or a gratuity. We would pay the money back, but not until subsequent seasons."
Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFL Players Association , said of the guaranteed payments: "It is evidence of the league and networks working together to scare the players. It is part of their effort to weaken the players' resolve. It won't work."
The league said no decision had been reached whether to call off the 13 remaining NFL games this weekend and Monday night, but Donlan said Tuesday that if the Thursday game was called off it would be very difficult to go ahead with the weekend games because of the resulting schedule imbalance.
The league did not say whether tonight's game was canceled or only postponed.
Chuck Sullivan, chairman of the NFL Management Council's executive committee, said yesterday that teams will notify players that they are not allowed to participate in proposed all-star games during the strike.
The NFLPA and Turner Broadcasting Company have scheduled all-star games beginning next month should the strike still be in effect.
In Dallas, Tex Schramm, president of the Dallas Cowboys and the chairman of the NFL's competition committee, said yesterday the committee had not yet discussed the issues of whether games lost because of the strike should be made up and, if so, how. "We will play it on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis," Schramm said.
On the issue of attempting to play with free agents, rookies and veterans who defy the union, Schramm said the committee was "of the unanimous opinion that trying to play games with teams that were not representative of a team's normal squad would not be fair from a competitive standpoint.
In Chicago yesterday for an appearance on the Phil Donahue show, Garvey said the league's announcement that it might attempt to play out the schedule despite a strike was unrealistic.
"They were hoping some of the players would go in. They got 10 out of 1,500," Garvey told United Press International.
Cincinnati linebacker Reggie Williams told UPI that if the Bengals try to put together a team during the strike, he intends to be on it. "I'm opposed to this whole situation. If there's a possibility of a game going on, I definitely will be willing to lend my hand for the pride of Cincinnati football," Williams said.
In Tampa a spokesman for the Buccaneers said several players had called the club and said they were willing to play, according to UPI. They were told to keep in touch. Among them were starting quarterback Doug Williams and his backup Jerry Goldsteyn, both of whom have said publicly they would not support a strike.