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Strike Recap- 1987; The Replacements

The peace lasted 5 years, but the players watched the NFL owners just get richer, with even bigger TV contract incomes. The players never got their 55% of owners gross they wanted, nor did they get any kind of freedom on where to play. While both sides took losses in 1982, it was widely considered that the players won. They felt the owners would yield again. They never dreamed the owners would go on....without them.

The players finished the first two weeks of the 1987 season, much like they did in '82. Players would leave their sidelines in both work stoppages just before the kickoff, come out to half way point of the field, and shake hands to the Boos of the fans. After week two, football on Sundays stopped.

For one week that is; because this time the owners had a plan. They got players to cross the picket lines. Cops, Bankers, Cooks, anyone who played a little college ball lined up to try out for their local teams, led by the same coaches of course. The replaements were called scabs, and the teams they played for got all kinds of new nick-names;

Chicago Spare Bears

New Orleans Saint-Elsewheres

San Francisco Phony Niners

Miami Dolfinks

Seattle SeaScabs

Los Angeles Scabs.

Most guys simply couldnt help themselves, they realized this was their chance of a lifetime. Coaches like before, urged teams players to stick together. Some teams, did not stick to this plan, the most famous of the line crossers were the Dallas Cowboys. Several hall of fame players joined in with scrubs, and LOST to a 100% replacement team for the Washington Redskins. The Skins in fact, were the only team with not one line crosser, and some say this unity helped propell them to the Super Bowl that year. That, and the fact the real team would actually get together and practice, on their own. The skins upset of Dallas that season even served as the backdrop for a movie, "The Replacements" with Keanu Reaves. 

With Players not getting any money, and the NFL going on with psudo games being televised as if nothing was happening, this time the pressure was quickly applied to the strikers. The NFL Players Association failed to save up any strike fund for needy players, and this time, the public was clearly in the opinion of the owners as being the victims. 

A final insult by owners dealt to the players; a vote was passed to return to work on October 15th, but the owners refused to let players back into camps for one more week, because they missed the owner mandated deadline. The Bosses held all the cards in this one. The players union filed an anti-trust lawsuit, which was thrown out. Thus, the players union decertified itself, and became a professional entity in 1989. As such, the next year led by NY Jets running back Freeman McNeil, an anti-trust suite was placed on the NFL. After a jury trial brought on by further class action with Philadelphia Defensive end Reggie White, the parties returned to the table and hammered out a plan for free agency. In defeat, the players finally got what they wanted in 1982, the right to not have to spend an entire career in one region of the country. Finally, in 1993, the union went back to being just that, a Union, represented the players, and entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the league.

It is this agreement, which has been renewed 5 times, that is ending after not being renewed. In the end, while the owners were able to control the end of the strike, the end game belonged to the players. They got their share of the owners wealth, guaranteed minimum salaries, and limited Free Agency which eventually turned into the system enjoyed today.

Its interesting to know, the Bucs strike team went 2-1 and helped the Bucs out big time. The Bucs opened the season by demolishing the Atlanta Falcons 48-10, and lost a close one at Chicago. The strike team gave the Bucs a 3-2 record, and when the regular players returned, the Bucs ran out to a 20-0 lead on the Chicago Bears, Monsters of the Midway. The Bucs found a way to lose the game and watched the season fall apart from there.