This shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone that has been paying attention, but reading just a little bit between the lines of Salt Lake co-owner Dave Checketts' comments in the Deseret News indicates that MLS is preparing to use replacement players in the case of a strike.
"We know exactly what we'll do. These are all owners who've been in the NBA, they've been in the NHL, some of them own Major League Baseball teams even today. We know what we'll do. We have a plan if the players strike," said Checketts. "I just hope the players understand the implication of the threats they're making to strike because if they do in fact go on strike, then that forces the owners to do something very aggressive and very different."
Whether that contingency plan calls for replacement players, Checketts wouldn't elaborate. But he did say the owners "will take action that will make life very difficult."
There's also this line, which appears to be the author taking some liberties with his own interpretations.
Owners are more likely to field teams of scabs than they are to give into the players demands for free agency.
"It's not in my hands now. The commissioner is at the table. The owners are absolutely unified in supporting him. Smart people have got to sit down and bargain in good faith and find a way to make a deal. (It's) the threat of a strike hanging over us we don't respond to very well," said Checketts.
Elsewhere, there's speculation the reason teams waited until this week to cut down rosters was to ensure that replacement players were more up-to-date than they otherwise would be.
In any case, it's pretty obvious that owners are a bit peeved at the players openly threatening to strike as Checketts is the fourth owner in the last three days to speak out. He joins Seattle's Joe Roth, the Galaxy's Tim Leiweke and San Jose's Lew Wolff, none of whom have been painted as bad guys in the past and in some cases are considered the more player-friendly owners.
Obviously, I'm hoping fans won't be forced to choose between respecting picket lines and attending soccer games. After talking to several fans over the past few days, though, I get the distinct impression that many are still unaware that a strike is even imminent. Their biggest concern seemed to be whether they'd still be asked to pay full price to watch substandard players, and were less concerned about the principals of the work stoppage.
The last time a major league American sport used replacement players for regular-season games was during the 1987 NFL players strike. In that situation, players managed to get Week 3 canceled, but the next three weeks were played with a combination of replacements and line-crossers. Players eventually called off the strike after 24 days without a deal. The union eventually decertified before reorganizing in 1989.
The players ultimately won free agency through the courts in 1993, paving the way for their first CBA in more than 10 years.
What are your thoughts on the potential use of replacement players?