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The quotes were enough to make eyes brim with tears. "We want what is right and fair," said one of the underlings, lamenting his treatment by management.

Were these striking miners struggling to live off paychecks in 1946? Were they bleeding and wounded steel workers during the violent 1892 strike in Homestead, Pa.?Nope. The quote belongs to a player in the National Basketball Association in 1995, one of 33 so-called dissidents - millionaires all - lamenting how he would have trouble living without millions more. One of the chief dissident spokesmen, Patrick Ewing of the New York Knicks, would earn $18.75 million during the coming season, if there is a coming season.

Americans have a record of fighting for fairness, of sticking up for the underdog and the downtrodden against all odds. But this looks a lot like greedy prospectors fighting over a claim to a rich gold mine.

The players' union and the league worked out a deal earlier this month that would double league salaries, giving the average player about $3 million a year by the end of six years. It includes a lot of other provisions for players to get even richer.

The dissidents, which include Utah's Felton Spencer and Jamie Watson, say they aren't thinking of themselves. They worry about rookies who would suffer under the agreement's loosely defined rookie salary cap.

Stick a sock in it.

Here's who would suffer if the players reject the agreement later this month: The concessionaires, the parking attendants, the restaurant owners near the Delta Center and a host of other people who earn their livings off NBA basketball in Utah and elsewhere in the league. Some of them make only minimum wage.

The players who pretend to be fighting for justice are close to accumulating enough wealth that they themselves could become owners. One wonders what their attitude then would be toward striking players.

Rejecting a deal that would provide millions for grown men to play a game is an insult to the many through the years who have waged battles for subsistence wages.