On This Date in Sports History…The NFL Players Strike Begins

Back in 1987 professional sports was a microcosm of what it is now. Free agency was pretty much nonexistent and players were definitely not taken care of like they are today. Well when the players tried to improve their positions in the NFL, the owners obviously pushed back. This led to an entire week of football being canceled during the 1987 season.

On September 27th 1987 the NFL players strike began. The reason this is known as a players strike is because the NFL only missed 1 week while the players missed that canceled week plus 3 more weeks. After Week 2 of the 1987 season the players voted to actually start the strike on September 22nd. September 27th came and no deal was done, so the players did not show up and the NFL canceled Week 3 of the 1987 Season.

If ESPN got one thing right it was the 30 for 30 series

After they canceled week, the NFL chose to move forward with games starting again in Week 4. They would use what was referred to as replacement players to fill the team rosters. These players came from leagues such as the CFL and USFL which had just folded. You may actually be more familiar with this story than you think. The movie, The Replacements is loosely based on this strike. These players were not received well at all by anyone! They were called scabs by fans and the media.

Some prominent NFL players including Joe Montana continued to play despite the strike. The replacement players played for the next 3 weeks while the strike continued. Obviously attendance dropped, TV ratings dropped and the NFL was in panic mode. The owners finally budged and the strike ended after 24 days. Certain people out there attribute the strike to the Redskins eventually winning the Super Bowl. It seems though that it was not the players that helped them win, but rather Joe Gibbs was the only coach who remembered that the games with the replacement players still counted. For these 3 games, other teams in the NFC such as the Giants did not remember this fact leading to them missing the playoffs entirely.

This strike is considered to be the start of a players revolution in professional sports. Since this lockout, the power given to the players to earn more money and dictate certain terms with teams has improved significantly.

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