In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on April 1, 2011 at 2:56 pm

The Redskins are holding their annual Draft Day Party on April 30th at FedEx Field. And, you’re thinking, that’s not really news. The Skins have done that every year since they drafted LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels in the first round in 2000.

What’s interesting about this year’s party is the list of participants and the timing of the event. It’s always about the timing.

Here, in the midst of an NFL-imposed lockout of current players, 14 former Redskins are going to be on hand on draft day to interact with the fans, sign autographs, and so on. Ironically, six of those guys (Gary Clark, Ravin Caldwell, Raleigh McKenzie, Dexter Manley, Doc Walker, and George Starke) had careers that included one, or both, of the “strike years” 1982 and 1987. So, the same guys who once (in Dexter’s case twice) walked off the job in a battle with NFL ownership over a new collective bargaining agreement think it’s okay to associate with the current ownership at the same time the owners are threatening to erase all, or part, of the 2011 season in an effort to wrangle contract concessions from the current crop of players.

How soon they forget.

In fairness, retired players are no longer represented by the NFL Players Association, but they still have a horse in this race. Some former players are impacted by the lockout as it relates to worker’s compensation benefits due to those who were injured while still active. And, Yahoo! Sports is reporting that four former players, including Carl Eller and Priest Holmes, have filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL in an attempt to force an end to the lockout, in part, to prevent a cutoff of worker’s compensation.

Now, the whole issue might blow over by the end of April, but then again, it’s more likely to be getting testier by then. The NFLPA had been seriously talking about encouraging the incoming rookies to boycott the exact same draft that these six former Skins will be celebrating. For now though, a draft boycott appears to be off the agenda.

Still, I just find it odd that the former players don’t seem to have the backs of the current guys. I vividly remember the ’87 strike season. The picketing by the players and local union workers at old Redskins Park in Herndon, Va.  The day the “replacement” players arrived.  Redskins defensive lineman, Darryl Grant, banging on the window of the replacements’ bus so hard he cracked the glass. The nasty names given the replacement teams: ScabSkins, Phoney-Niners, Spare Bears. One game was cancelled completely. Three others were played by the replacements. By the third strike game, some of the regular players had re-joined their teams. BUT, NONE OF THE REDSKINS CROSSED THE PICKET LINE.  NOT ONE!  Not Clark. Not Caldwell. Not Dexter. Not McKenzie. Nobody crossed.

So, why are these guys “crossing” now? 23 seasons have come and gone since the last major NFL work stoppage. Maybe time heals.  The NFLPA and its members haven’t always shown concern for the issues that impact the retired players like healthcare and pensions. (See Drew Brees’ 2009 comments on ex-players’ bad financial decisions.) Maybe that’s the reason. Maybe it’s just business.  And, current NFLPA matters are simply not the retirees’ business. Who knows?

I’m not calling the former Skins “bad” guys for doing this. They’re getting paid and who can fault them for making a buck. I’m not trying to drive a wedge between the ex-Skins and Dan Snyder. I’m actually glad that Skins G.M. Bruce Allen has made a point of re-connecting with the guys from the past.  And, I certainly don’t think the former players should turnaround and boycott the Draft Day Party, and spoil a fun day for Redskins fans.

I’m just wondering why the players, old and new, seem so disconnected at a time when you would think that the “past” could offer counsel and guidance to the “present”, and maybe, just maybe, help prevent the loss of a game, of a season, that means so much to so many… fans, stadium workers, players, coaches, front office folks, and, yes, even the media.

Just wonderin’.

Ross, the creator of Throwback Baseball 1.0, also blogs about sports memorabilia at:

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