Chuck Cascio

     My friend Brig Owens, the all-star safety for the Washington football team, handed me a tee-shirt. "We are going on strike," he said. "I hope you will wear this to show your support."

     I unfolded the shirt, and read its slogan spelled out around a clenched fist: "No Freedom, No Football." I shook Brig's hand and said, "Sure, I will wear it and support you in any way that I can."

     Well, there were not many ways that I--a teacher and freelance journalist--could support Brig and the other players in the NFL who went on strike in 1974, but I understood their cause and I did what I could—writing articles, speaking informally about the players’ cause, and making the the tee-shirt a staple of my wardrobe. At that time, players did not have basic workers' rights--health insurance was limited as were pensions, and players had virtually no say about which team would own their rights in a trade or sale. As far as fans were concerned, few recognized that the guys on the field were actually...WORKERS!  


     Recently, in various fields we see workers demanding their rights, whether it is more money, fringe benefits, time off, or other items relating to personal freedom. They often make their case in ways that surprise others. Perhaps that is because we don't often think about the people on the front line...the people who drive the trucks that deliver the goods at 3:00 AM; the workers responsible for the basic details of automobile operations; the writers and performers whose creativity and commitment create the shows that entertain us and millions of others daily.

     Across professions, there is the tendency to forget that the bottom-line people responsible are, in fact, workers! That is why being given the privilege of developing and editing the late Ed Garvey's experiences and words for the book Never Ask "Why": Football Players' Fight for Freedom in the NFL has been so meaningful to me. Ed was the executive director of the National Football League Players Association from 1971-1983, and among many other initiatives that he led on behalf of players' rights was the "No Freedom, No Football" strike of 1974.

     The tee-shirt, the clenched fist, the players' picket lines, and the slogan “No Freedom, No Football” went a long way toward raising awareness among fans that players were workers who were serious about the freedom issues, issues to which many fans themselves could relate. The slogan and actions conveyed defiance. They communicated the essence of fundamental rights. And they ultimately succeeded in establishing an important starting point for players' rights.

     Never Ask "Why" is now being widely distributed by Temple University Press to football fans, academics, and anyone interested in the issues of equity that are at the basis of this important piece of sports history. Ed Garvey was a fan, a rebel, and a game changer. His experiences are not only a piece of sports and labor history; they are at the core of rights for all workers. 

     That iconic slogan and symbol captured the reality of the battle that was being fought...a battle that continues in sports and other fields today, as the role of ground-level workers is acknowledged, debated, and ultimately, we hope, rewarded.


Never Ask “Why”: Football Players’ Fight for Freedom in the NFL

Available in hardback or ebook via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many others including directly from Temple University Press at

Copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

Comments? Send to