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NFL Replacement Players Get Super Bowl Rings


Washington's NFL team says it will give Super Bowl rings to the replacement players who crossed picket lines to play during the infamous 1987 NFL strike. Derided by some as scabs, they won key regular-season games, helping to propel Washington to the playoffs and ultimately the championship. But those temporary players never got Super Bowl rings. It was an ESPN documentary about the strike called "Year Of The Scab" that moved Virginia state lawmakers to pass a resolution honoring these replacement players. This included quarterback Tony Robinson who remembers the crazy chain of events that put him on the field.

TONY ROBINSON: At that time, I was in prison, and they let me out of prison to go play football.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) No scab football. No scab football.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Then there was the...

ROBINSON: Scab? I just play football. You know, I mean, scab or whatever you want to call it, someone's got to fill those shoes.


FRANK GIFFORD: Hello again, everyone. And welcome to Texas stadium for this - the final replacement game of the NFL season.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Anyone who underestimates a Bobby Beathard football team, which is what this new replacement skin squad is, is making a serious error.

ROBINSON: We played three games - the Cardinals, the Giants and the Cowboys. Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys, and it was a big game. We both were tied for first place in the conference. So whoever wins that game will go to the playoffs. You know, I was like, OK, it's the Dallas Cowboys, a team I hate. Let's go out here and spank this butt.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Robinson back, gets the blitz, gets rid of the football. And Robinson very cool under tremendous pressure.


ROBINSON: It was a great pleasure beating those Cowboys on TV - couldn't ask for anything else. And after that, I come back to Knoxville, turned myself in and went on to do my time. I watched the Super Bowl in prison (laughter).


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: We are live from San Diego, Calif., on a spectacularly beautiful day for football.

ROBINSON: I was watching it in prison, and everybody was betting on Denver Broncos. I was a Redskin. And I said, I cover all bets.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: And Elway going for the bomb right at the outset - throws, caught by Nattiel, touchdown.


ROBINSON: Denver scores. They get out on us 10 to zip, and the whole place was just going crazy - just going nuts. I just told myself, hey, well, the game's not over yet, guys. Game's not over with. So after a while, you could hear a pin drop.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: And the Redskins - the Super Bowl champs...

ROBINSON: I said anybody home? Anybody here? You know, so no one wanted to talk that day. Nobody wanted to talk that day after that 42-10 whooping but me. We didn't know if we were going to get a ring or not, you know, for being a part of that team. So when it first came out that we weren't going to get any rings, you know, it kind - it hurt a little bit. But hey, you know - I could say, hey, I was a part of that '87 Super Bowl team that won the championship against the Denver Broncos.


JASON MIYARES: For too long, they haven't received recognition. But I'm proud to say that in Virginia, we have not forgotten. And on February 28, we passed House Joint Resolution 151 unanimously, honoring the '87 Washington Redskins replacement players and the incredible mark they left on the history of the NFL. Please rise...

ROBINSON: I was speechless at first. I - you know, it brought tears to my eyes and everything to find out we were going to get rings and everything. So I can't wait to put it on my finger. I don't know which one - which hand to put it on.


MARTIN: That was 1987 NFL replacement player Tony Robinson on getting his Super Bowl ring, finally, after 31 years.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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