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8 NFL PLAYERS FILE SUIT ACCUSING LEAGUE OF VIOLATING ANTI-TRUST LAWS

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Eight professional football players filed suit against the NFL and its teams Wednesday, charging that the creation of developmental squads amounts to price fixing.

"It's outrageous," said attorney Joseph A. Yablonski, who represents the former developmental squad members and the NFL Players Association in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court. "It's as wrong as the nose on your face."The suit alleged that the league and its clubs last year illegally agreed to establish a six-person developmental squad for each team and pay those players $1,000 per week over the 16-week season.

Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFLPA, blasted that decision as "one of the worst things that has happened to players in the NFL in recent years."

He called the price-fixing "a blatant violation under antitrust laws."

NFL spokesman Joe Browne said he had not seen the documents and could not comment until he had a chance to review them.

The players' union must prove a conspiracy in restraint of trade, "namely that competitors have gotten together and tried to fix the market," said Yablonski.

He charged that the developmental squads, created in September 1989 after clubs' rosters were fixed, were designed to retain young players at bargain prices. In past years, the 200 who signed developmental contracts would have earned at least the minimum $60,000 rookies' salary on alternative lists such as injured reserve, he said.

The suit seeks damages for individual players triple the amount each should have received in the 1989 season, subtracting the $16,000 developmental salary.

Yablonski said one player represented in the lawsuit, whose name he declined to divulge, signed a contract with a new club for the 1990 season that is 10 times the developmental salary.

The NFLPA said the league could end up paying more than $30 million to settle the suit.

"This lawsuit is one step toward vindicating the rights of these players who, as highly skilled professional athletes, were deprived of the right to sell their services in a free market," Upshaw said. "Many of these players could not even afford to rent an apartment or motel room and support themselves and their families on what the clubs agreed among themselves to pay these players."

Players named in the suit are Jim Bishop of the Washington Redskins; John Buddenberg, who was under contract with the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings; Gary Couch of Minnesota; Ricky Andrews and Craig Davis of the San Diego Chargers; and Anthony Brown, Matthew Jaworski and Wesley Pritchett of the Buffalo Bills.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth.