Ed Garvey, executive director of the National Football League Players Association, and members of the union's negotiating committee finally met with a group of NFL owners yesterday, but the NFLPA's strike against the league still appears no closer to settlement.
Shortly after the meeting in a Baltimore suburb ended, the NFLPA announced it was postponing its first all-star game until Oct. 17 to sort out legal troubles with the NFL.
NFLPA representatives have said continually there would be no progress until owners were present at negotiations. Yesterday marked the first time Garvey and the union have talked officially to owners, although the meeting was termed "a nonnegotiating" session by the NFL Management Council.
Instead, the union used the 90-minute get-together to explain its wage-scale demand, the central issue and major hangup in negotiations. In turn, according to a council spokesman, the owners told the NFLPA that the league's chief negotiator, Jack Donlan, was representing their views correctly at negotiating sessions.
"The owners told them that the league's opposition to a wage scale flowed from them to Jack Donlan and that Donlan has full authority to negotiate for them," the spokesman said. The union has maintained that Donlan is powerless in negotiations and can make no decisions without consent of the owners.
Garvey said the meeting came about after he talked to Pittsburgh's Dan Rooney Sunday night. The NFLPA executive committee discussed Garvey's call Monday in New York and then told the union it would talk.
"It was in a sense a vote of confidence in Donlan," Garvey said. "But I think it was a step forward to getting the owners directly involved in the negotiations." He said it helped having the players and owners talk directly.
Garvey said he expected that a new round of negotiations would be scheduled no later than today. There have been no official negotiations since Saturday. The strike began Sept. 21.
Garvey had said the union would consider mediation if owners would bargain for a few days with the NFLPA.
Representing the NFL at the meeting, which was held at the Hunt Valley Inn in Baltimore County, were members of the Management Council executive committee: Rooney, Leonard Tose of Philadelphia, Hugh Culverhouse of Tampa Bay, Mike Brown of Cincinnati, Chuck Sullivan of New England and Jim Kensil of the New York Jets.
Garvey; Gene Upshaw, the union president, and executive committee members Mark Murphy and Stan White represented the union.
"I'd be more encouraged now if we could get the owners to the table," Murphy said. "They said they wanted to hear about the wage scale but their minds were made up before they came in. And they wouldn't talk about any other issue.
"They said that the present (pay) system has worked well, so why change it? We told them they should change it because the players no longer will play under the old way."
Meanwhile, plans for the union's all-star games remained unsettled following the postponement. The opening game had been scheduled Sunday in RFK Stadium, matching players from the AFC and NFC east divisions. A second game, set for Monday in Philadelphia, also has been postponed, and will be moved to an undetermined site.
The NFLPA waited until late afternoon before postponing the game. The union had hoped that federal Judge John G. Penn would issue a ruling on its request to block the league from interfering with the contest. Instead, Penn announced he would give a ruling here today.
The NFLPA also has asked Penn to stop NFL teams from filing individual requests for temporary restraining orders against players named to participate in the game.
So far, five teams--Buffalo, Dallas, St. Louis, Miami and Philadelphia--have filed requests for injunctions. The Redskins are prepared to do so today, but likely will wait until after Penn's ruling. As long as the restraining orders stay in effect, the union would not have enough quality players available.
"If it's necessary to protect our players and our rights, the Redskins are prepared to go to court to enjoin the players from participating in the game," said counsel Larry Lucchino.