Brand NFL: Making and Selling America's Favorite Sport

By Michael Oriard | Go to book overview

3
THE END OF THE ROZELLE ERA

The failed strike in the summer of 1974 marked the beginning of a period of conflict that would not be resolved for two decades (and that has continued, though with owners now fighting each other instead of their players). Peace between the NFL Players Association and management arrived only after two more failed strikes and a series of NFLPA victories in court, before a labor agreement was reached in 1993 that became one of the cornerstones of the hugely prosperous new NFL. Al Davis initiated the owners' internal conflicts when he filed suit in 1980 for the right to move his franchise from Oakland to Los Angeles, then won the initial jury decision in May 1982. Following Davis's final victory in appeals court in 1984, Robert Irsay moved the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis, and other owners began contemplating their own future relocations. By 1986 journalist David Harris could write a book about the rise and decline of the NFL. Pro football was thriving on the field, with Bill Walsh's West Coast Offense creating a new dynasty in San Francisco, Buddy Ryan and Lawrence Taylor revolutionizing defensive play, and the Super Bowl acquiring its exalted place in American life. But off the field the NFL seemed to be falling into chaos. The third major strike, in 1987, became particularly damaging to the league's credibility, when the owners disdained any concern for “the integrity of the game” by opting to field scab teams (with what were euphemistically called “replacement players”).

On top of this structural breakdown, arrests, indictments, and convictions of NFL players for drug offenses—and suspensions by Pete Rozelle that followed—became a routine part of the sports news. Over the 1980s, football

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Brand NFL: Making and Selling America's Favorite Sport
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Creation of the Modern Nfl in the 1960s 10
  • 2: No Freedom, No Football 55
  • 3: The End of the Rozelle Era 95
  • 4: The New Nfl 140
  • 5: Football as Product 175
  • 6: Football in Black and White 210
  • Conclusion 250
  • Notes 259
  • Acknowledgments 309
  • Index 311
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