Flashback Friday: Reggie White’s cray holdout and the dawn of the Eagles hot take

In what has been an unbelievably busy offseason for the Philadelphia Eagles—new coach, new front office personnel, trades on top of trades that led to a new quarterback of the future, which, of course, brought on a quarterback holdout and impending quarterback controversy—there is one outstanding task to still cross off the list: make Fletcher Cox happy.

The Eagles don’t have to re-sign Cox yet, as the defensive tackle many call the team’s best player still has this year plus a potential franchise year next season before the Eagles really risk losing him. That said, if they don’t give him the money he’s looking for (something close to Ndamokung Suh’s mega-deal in Miami the Dolphins are already trying to get out from under), the Eagles run the risk of losing Cox well before they officially let him go.

In other words, make your best players happy and the team will benefit. Don’t, and you run the risk of a protracted holdout.

A star player holding out in pre-season is nothing new for the Eagles. In 2015 both Mychal Kendricks and Evan Mathis held out. One got cut, one came back. And while neither of them are stars on the same caliber of Cox, others at that level of quality and importance to the Birds have certainly held out.

DeSean Jackson held out in 2011. Jeremy Maclin held out in 2009. Terrell Owens and Brian Westbrook both held out in 2005, though we usually only remember the one. Duce Staley held out in 2003. Donovan McNabb, before he was even technically a member of the team, held out in 1999, the year he was drafted.

Even Ron Jaworski, who said this week that Sam Bradford should apologize to the Eagles for missing voluntary workouts last week—barely even a holdout—himself held out back in 1983, missing four days of actual training camp.

That’s not even half the list, surely, but still that’s a lot of talented players who have held out over the years. None, however, are as notable as Reggie White, who famously held out in advance of the 1989 season.

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Nearly three decades ago, White decided that his year-long negotiation with the Eagles to become the game’s highest-paid defender wasn’t going the way he wanted. The Eagles had made the playoffs in 1988 and were on their way to becoming one of the most feared defenses in the league under Buddy Ryan, with White as the centerpiece.

It was an offseason of progress for the team, yet one of tumult for its best player. White hired Jimmy Sexton as his agent, and was in a protracted legal battle with his former agent, Patrick Forte, who had taken a job in the Eagles front office, that was tied to his contract negotiations. White opted to sit out training camp and much of the pre-season until a new deal could be worked out with the team. He didn’t return to the team until August 22, 1989.

If this happened today, the world would end. Done. Caput. Philadelphia sports media would jump off the Ben Franklin bridge.

But back then, interest in the NFL wasn’t as fevered as it is today, and the media coverage in Philly certainly wasn’t the same. Sports talk radio was fledgeling to say the least, with WIP finishing its first full year as a full-time sports station in Philadelphia. The Inquirer and Daily News each had just one person covering the Eagles during the off-season. The internet existed, sort of, but the Prodigy and CompuServe chat rooms paled in comparison to today’s hot take breeding ground of Twitter and Facebook.

It seems that back in the late ‘80s, professional opinions were left mostly to the professionals.

So, as we wait for the Eagles’ best player to end his current holdout, here’s a look at some of the dogged reporting, wonderfully penned ledes and hot-for-the-80s takes about Philly’s most notable holdout ever.

Per Newsbank.com, and online resource for daily newspaper archives, there were 134 stories that in some way referenced Reggie White’s holdout between the start of May, 1989 and the day after he officially signed his contract on August 22. While that probably seems low given the span of time—safe bet says we hit 134 stories on Bradford’s holdout by day three—every single article on every third-string free agent led with something like “It’s not Reggie White, but…” Writers had a field day with that when Reggie Singletary was signed in July.

Here’s a look back at some of the best headlines, greatest ledes and insane quotes trying to tell the same “he’s not here yet” story every day of that memorable summer. The Reggie White holdout may not be the official genesis of the Philly sports hot take, but this is like going back in time to watch a baby walk for the first time. Stick with it, as the summer goes along, the temperature—and the takes—heat up.

Quick Might Join White As Minicamp No-show Workouts Also Signal Start Of Hardball Season 

  • Tim Kawakami, Daily News Sports Writer
  • May 1, 1989

You know it is time for yet another fun-filled Eagles minicamp when the sky is clear, the kites are flying, and the smell of a few boycotts is pungent in the air.

What better way to start the slow, two-month roll toward training camp than to know that defensive lineman Reggie White is going to skip this week’s minicamp and that wide receiver Mike Quick just might join him?

After all, with the draft completed and free agency dead for another season, this is the unofficial start of that special time in any football season: hardball negotiation season. Holdout time.

Tim Kawakami was the Eagles beat writer for the Daily News at the time. Kawakami is now covering the Golden State Warriors for the Mercury News. His ledes in the Reggie White story were amazing, with several pulled here. Bill Ordine was the beat guy for the Inquirer that year. His prose was less purple, but often just as effective.

OFFER WOULD MAKE WHITE ‘HIGHEST-PAID DEFENDER’

  • Bill Ordine, Inquirer Staff Writer
  • May 2, 1989

At the moment, White is in Tennessee while his teammates go through the three-day mini-camp – and Buddy Ryan expressed his displeasure yesterday with White’s absence.

“I’m fining him as much as I can fine him, I don’t know exactly. They say it’s $500 right now but it might be more,” the Eagles coach said. “I don’t think he’s accomplishing anything by missing camp.

“I guess this is some kind of ploy but I don’t understand it – maybe his agent does. You’re not hurting anybody; you’re hurting yourself, the team and the coaches.”

This is your first reminder at how awful Buddy Ryan was to his players, because the NFL allowed him and other coaches at that time to be awful. This quote could be something we see today. Others, later, are insane to think about in today’s NFL.

Oh, and this was a time when the Inqy and DN were actually two separate papers. Same headline on the same day…awkward!

OFFER WOULD MAKE WHITE HIGHEST-PAID DEFENDER

  • Tim Kawakami, Daily News Sports Writer
  • May 2, 1989

It was just a step, one stride forward on a path that has forked wildly over these last 14 months.

It was just a single, inevitable step. But in the on-again, scoff-again negotiations between Reggie White and the Eagles, any significant movement forward by either side is pretty much a landmark event.

One of them occurred yesterday, and whether this is the step that gets the deal done depends on White’s reaction, on the next bend in the path.

The Newsbank archives are limited, so there aren’t any searchable links to the Bulletin or other city publications; perhaps a Philly Mag feature here or there that summer. They do have archives for area papers like the Allentown Morning Call.

Let’s skip ahead to July…

WILL WHITE AND QUICK SHOW UP FOR BUDDY?

  • Terry Larimer, The Morning Call
  • July 9, 1989

The Philadelphia Eagles know that Buddy Ryan’s voluntary camp is about as voluntary as breathing. They know that in Ryan’s thesaurus, you find the word “eagles” under “volunteers” and nowhere else.

Even contract holdouts come to voluntary camp, even though they may not show up for Ryan’s somewhat less voluntary “mandatory” camp.

Consider what happened last year. Quarterback Randall Cunningham and rookie tight end Keith Jackson embarked on Pro Bowl seasons by showing up for voluntary camp despite having no contracts.

When “real” camp opened, both were holdouts, although Cunningham’s holdout lasted about as long as a two-minute drill.

Again, this has been collectively bargained out of the NFL. So when everyone is mad at Bradford or Cox for missing voluntary workouts, remember they are actually voluntary now, even if most players do show up.

RYAN READIES EAGLES’ MINI-CAMP

  • Chuck Betson, The Press of Atlantic City Staff Writer
  • July 10, 1989

Football is probably the last thing on your mind today as the heat of summer kicks in.

But for some 83 players on the Philadelphia Eagles roster, summer will officially end today at 9 a.m. when coach Buddy Ryan’s voluntary mini-camp begins on the practice fields behind Veterans Stadium.

The voluntary tag is really nothing but an illusion.

“I expect everybody to be there, with the exception of one guy,” Ryan said Sunday at Veterans Stadium while the field was being readied for The Who concert.

Just who that player is is no surprise: Reggie White, the Eagles’ All-Pro defensive end.

But according to Ryan, White will just be late for practice today and will definitely be there for Tuesday’s practice.

“He (White) told me he had some personal problems to take care of and that if he finished with them he’d be there before practice was over,” Ryan said. “It’s his business and not mine, but he told me he’d only miss one day at the most.”

The situation with White is sure to dominate the Eagles’ early preseason practices. White has repeatedly said that he won’t play for the Eagles unless he has a new contract. White, who is in the disputed option year of a four-year contract, is slated to make $440,000. The Eagles have reportedly countered with a new five-year deal worth $7.55 million. If White is not signed by the opening of the Eagles’ training camp in West Chester, Pa., on July 23, you can be sure he will not stay in camp. But he will probably report to this week’s voluntary mini-camp, as Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham did last summer when he was involved in a contract dispute with the club.

Or…he won’t. Ah, the benefit of reporting hindsight.

RYAN PREDICTS ALL EAGLES WILL SHOW UP

  • Terry Larimer, The Morning Call
  • July 10, 1989

So why, someone else wanted to know, did White get away with missing mandatory minicap, but was now attending voluntary camp?

Ryan attributed that move to those larcenous player agents who play all sorts of mind games in order to get their players piles of money that team owners might otherwise turn over to charity.

“It’s not going to get them a nickel more one way or the other,” Ryan said of such ploys.

Ryan strongly hinted that White and his fellow Front Four members had better get their act together this season.

“Larcenous player agents.” Yikes.

Remember, while we brushed past most of May and June, this contract dispute was going on for months, and people were rightly nervous that White wouldn’t be in camp at all, given the mess of a lawsuit he had hanging over these contract negotiations. Tensions were getting high.

White Won’t Volunteer His Services

  • Tim Kawakami, Daily News Sports Writer
  • July 12, 1989

Someday, somehow, in some manner hidden from us for now, this whole Reggie White imbroglio at long last will settle itself.

He either will sign a new contract with the Eagles, play out the option year of his existing deal and become a free agent, or he will be traded.

Something will be resolved once and for all, some time in the future, and then perhaps the football-watching populous of this city can turn its attention to issues other than holdouts, insurance policies, lawsuits and guarantees.

To football, maybe.

Or, for about six more weeks, maybe not.

ABSENCE OF WHITE AN ISSUE

  • Bill Ordine, Inquirer Staff Writer
  • July 12, 1989

Only two days into the Eagles’ “voluntary” camp, Reggie White’s contract dispute took center stage.

Jimmy Sexton, White’s agent, said it was unlikely that the Pro Bowl defensive end would attend the workouts at the Veterans Stadium practice field, a development that surprised head coach Buddy Ryan and the team’s president, Harry Gamble.

Ryan had anticipated that White would be absent for the first day or two while depositions were being taken in conjunction with his civil suit against Patrick Forte, his former agent who is now a front-office executive with the Eagles.

White’s suit, which is expected to go to trial Aug. 21, charges Forte with breach of contract, negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. In the suit, White contends that he was unaware of an option-year clause in the four-year contract he signed in 1985; the 1989 season is the option year.

While the above does a good job of concisely explaining the White lawsuit, I included it just for the headline. Imagine that headline today. (Note: do not Google that headline trying to find this story. It’s virtually impossible.)

EAGLES DRAWING CLOSER TO CAMP, BUT NOT DEALS

  • Tim Kawakami, Daily News Sports Writer
  • July 21, 1989

Training camp, at least for a while, will go on without Quick, White and the others. So will the Eagles. At least for a while.

“I think people on the team are sort of getting over the Reggie ordeal,” Cunningham said, “because you hear it so much every day.

“As far as our morale, we’ve just got to go out and play. I think guys are worried about other things rather than Reggie or Mike’s contract.

“Quick will be in camp, probably after a couple preseason games. Reggie, I don’t know about. But I won’t worry now. After the preseason starts, I’ll still not worry. Once the regular season starts, then I’ll start panicking.”

That’s one of the great quotes from a player caught unwittingly in the mess of another star’s contract dispute. You can almost hear the same thing coming from Eagles players now.

RYAN HAPPY WITH WAY BIRDS ARE WORKING OUT

  • Tim Kawakami, Daily News Sports Writer
  • July 22, 1989

Ryan said the absence of White, the All-Pro defensive lineman who skipped the workouts in a contract dispute, was not and should not be a major distraction to the team.

White is in Georgia now, working out on his own while he waits for a new deal. No talks are scheduled between his agent and the Eagles.

“I don’t think they even miss him,” Ryan said of his players. “Ninety- four (Steve Kaufusi) is getting a lot of reps at that position, plus the offensive linemen don’t have to block him.

Ah yes, who can forget the residual benefits of White’s holdout: giving Steve Kaufusi more reps in camp.

WHITE, QUICK AMONG THE MISSING AS EAGLES BEGIN WORKOUTS

  • Associated Press
  • July 25, 1989

The Philadelphia Eagles opened coach Buddy Ryan’s fourth preseason camp Monday without defensive end Reggie White and wide receiver Mike Quick.

Quick and seven other veterans plus four draft choices were not allowed in camp under National Football League rules because they remain unsigned. White, according to the Eagles, has an option year left on his contract and is being fined $1,000 for each day he fails to report.

But White contends he does not have an option year. He is suing the agent who negotiated the contract, Patrick Forte, who now is an Eagles vice president. The trial is scheduled for late August.

Reminder: this holdout situation and lawsuit is insane. It’s not quite DeflateGate, but given its connection to the NFL getting full free agency and how great White was as a player, it was one of the most important cases (and holdouts) in NFL history. But it was absolutely bonkers insane.

BUDDY MAKES IT A PRACTICE TO CALL FOR LEADERSHIP

  • Tim Kawakami, Daily News Sports Writer
  • July 28, 1989

Eagles coach Buddy Ryan has made it loud and clear that he is on a search to find leaders. Leaders who will spark his club, leaders who will stand up and say something when things aren’t going quite right.

Leaders such as Jimmie Giles, who was released, Mike Quick, who is unsigned and out of camp, and Reggie White, who is signed but holding out for a contract extension.

New leaders. Ryan used yesterday morning’s sluggish practice as a case in point.

“We had about the worst practice we ever had,” Ryan said after that workout. “It was really almost wasted. On both sides of the ball, it was just terrible. Probably feeling sorry for themselves.

“If we would have had some leaders, they could have said, ‘C’mon, get with it, pick it up.’

“I can get them all together and chew their butts out. But I don’t want to do it. I want it to come from from them. So I go around and talk to the individuals. And hope they pick it up.”

The Eagles played the Browns that summer in London during the pre-season. White did not make the trip. That was a notable story at the time, to say the least.

STORMY SEAS LIE AHEAD FOR EAGLES AND REGGIE WHITE

  • Bill Ordine, Inquirer Staff Writer
  • July 31, 1989

While his Eagles teammates are breezing through one-a-day practices, taking in the sights and, in general, spreading the gospel of the NFL in England this week, Reggie White will be an ocean away, stewing over contract negotiations that have hit a wall.

This is grim news, considering that Aug. 21 looms as a potentially catastrophic milepost for White and the Eagles. In three weeks, White’s civil suit against Patrick Forte, his former agent and a current Eagles front office executive, goes to trial.

White, a Pro Bowl defensive end, is charging Forte with breach of contract and conflict of interest in the negotiation of the deal that White is now trying to have extended at a considerable raise.

According to White’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, the trial has all the earmarks of a no-win situation for the Eagles.

If White lost, the damage between the player and the team could be irreparable. If White won, he could then sue the Eagles to dissolve his current contract, which has an option year remaining, and press to become a free agent.

“If we get to Aug. 21, it’s trouble,” Sexton said yesterday, “and I doubt that it’ll ever be the same for Reggie in Philadelphia.

“It creates a problem for everyone, because when you get into a court situation where someone of Reggie’s emotional and moral makeup has someone testifying against him, well . . . at that point, the only viable thing may be a trade.”

This was the end of July, in the middle of pre-season, the year after the Eagles made the playoffs for the first time in seven years and there was legimate talk of trading Reggie White because Norman Braman didn’t want to pay him.

Speaking of which…

BAD BLOOD WHITE WON’T BE TRADED, BRAMAN SAYS

  • Bill Ordine, Inquirer Staff Writer
  • August 2, 1989

Eagles owner Norman Braman said yesterday that he has no intention of trading defensive end Reggie White, regardless of what transpires in the current contract dispute between White and the team.

Braman, who had been vacationing in France, was in London to watch the Eagles practice for their game with the Cleveland Browns at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

“Reggie White will not be traded,” Braman insisted yesterday.

Last year, when quarterback Randall Cunningham was negotiating a new contract, Braman assuaged fan fears that the team and its star quarterback would not come to terms by insisting that Cunningham would be an Eagle. Yesterday, he was equally emphatic about White, a Pro Bowl player.

“Reggie White will be a Philadelphia Eagle,” the owner said. “Reggie White’s not going to be traded. Reggie White is not prepared to give up his football career, (so) I presume Reggie White’s going to be a Philadelphia Eagle.”

July 31: Inqy beat writer quotes White’s agent suggesting the only option could be a trade.

August 2: Same Inqy beat writer quotes owner that White will not be traded.

Yeah, media hasn’t changed that much.

WHITE’S AGENT: BRAMAN MISLEADING PUBLIC

  • Tim Kawakami, Daily News Sports Writer
  • August 4, 1989

Meanwhile, back in the states . . .

Things just keep getting bitterer and bitterer in Reggie White’s bid for a contract extension. You thought it couldn’t happen? Well, it did.

Yesterday, Jimmy Sexton, the agent for the Eagles’ All-Pro defensive lineman, said Eagles owner Norman Braman was intentionally misleading the public when he said the last offer to White was “$1 million more than Bruce Smith’s offer.”

“Reggie feels that this is another attempt to mislead,” Sexton said. ”The Eagles aren’t portraying to the public what’s really going on, because the offer we received was only $10,000 a year more than Bruce Smith.”

Now, the atmosphere between the two sides seems as poisonous as it ever has through the 18 months the talks have gone on.

“All of a sudden, after what Norman said, the fans are saying, ‘Hey, Reggie White’s been offered $1 million more than Bruce Smith, why won’t he sign?’ ” Sexton said.

“And if he had been offered $1 million, he would’ve. But he hasn’t, and it’s not right for the Eagles to say he has.”

That’s the one story you should click and read the entire thing. Not only does it explain how the relationship between the team and its best player had deteriorated through the stress of the holdout and the lawsuit, but it uses the word “balderdash” to do so.

WHITE TACKLING SETBACK IN TALKS

  • Bill Ordine, Inquirer Staff Writer
  • August 9, 1989

While negotiations between the Eagles and Reggie White continue, the player’s side has discovered that it is without a trump card it thought it held.

Jimmy Sexton, White’s agent, figured that one option available to the Pro Bowl defensive end was the last resort of sitting out the season and becoming a conditional free agent in February 1990.

However, according to the NFL Management Council, which represents the league, if a player does sit out a year or more, he still owes the club his services for the remaining length of the contract whenever he returns.

In White’s case, an option year remains on his contract.

The NFL union is, was and probably always will be the weakest of all professional sports unions. At least this led to actual free agency for them.

WHITE’S AGENT MEETS WITH GAMBLE

  • Tim Kawakami, Daily News Sports Writer
  • August 11, 1989

When is a negotiation session not a negotiating session? What is the sound of no men bargaining?

These are just two facets of this fascinating concept: Zen and the art of negotiating Reggie White’s desired contract extension.

Yesterday, for the first time in 18 months, Eagles president Harry Gamble and White’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, actually sat down with each other and talked face to face, in Gamble’s office.

But before anyone could call it a possible breakthrough, Gamble said the 90-minute talk was “informal” and that the two sides “didn’t talk dollars and cents.”

Remember that last quote there. That was August 11th. But first…Buddy is getting nervous.

RYAN: WHITE A MUST

  • Ed Hilt, The Press of Atlantic City Staff Writer
  • August 17, 1989

When asked if he could imagine beginning the season without All-Pro defensive end Reggie White, who is holding out in a bitter contract dispute, coach Buddy Ryan had a simple answer.

“No.”

“I couldn’t imagine being without Reggie White or Mike Pitts or Matt Darwin or Mike Quick,” Ryan said, adding the names of other holdouts. “I want to start the season with all of them. We get those four in, we have a heck of a football team.”

Right now, it doesn’t look very good for White coming in soon. On Tuesday, White’s agent said the two sides are farther apart than ever.

EAGLES DISCLOSE OFFERS TO WHITE AND QUICK

  • Bill Ordine, Inquirer Staff Writer
  • August 18, 1989

Frustrated by stalled contract negotiations, Eagles president Harry Gamble yesterday uncharacteristically outlined the latest offers to two of his stars, Reggie White and Mike Quick.

Gamble said the Eagles had made White a six-year, $10 million proposal that would be paid to the defensive end on a graduated scale. He said the club had offered Quick $3 million over three years, to be paid at a rate of $1 million a year. Gamble said the offer would make Quick the second most highly paid wide receiver in the NFL this year.

The offers were unacceptable to the players, however.

“When Mike Quick hears about this, he’s going to go bananas,” Quick’s agent, Jim Solano, said of the team’s decision to make its offer public. ”This is Mike’s personal business.”

Gamble described recent discussions with White’s agent, Jimmy Sexton.

“Two, three days ago, we talked about one-year deals, four-year deals, three-year deals,” the Eagles’ president said.

“We made one offer for $10 million for six years, which would have raised the dollar average significantly over the Bruce Smith deal,” he said. “It would have been $1,666,000 on average.”

It’s unclear if the two sides talked again—there is no record of those talks in the archives—or Gamble was referencing the talk in which they supposedly “didn’t talk dollars and cents.” Even back then it was hard to trust the spin doctors.

Meanwhile, how good was Tim Kawakami at writing ledes? This good:

EAGLES PUT THEIR TERMS ON RECORD GAMBLE REVEALS FIGURES ON OFFERS TO QUICK AND WHITE

  • Tim Kawakami, Daily News Sports Writer
  • August 18, 1989

Through good and bad, through menacing face-downs and gentle times, Eagles president Harry Gamble always has been the organization’s Mr. Nice Guy, the quiet conciliator, the good cop.

All around him, players might be walking out of camp, owner Norman Braman might be whacking away at his agent of most recent dislike. But Gamble has kept himself and the negotiations out of the limelight, back in the shadows where the deals can be cut more easily, where he can keep the talks alive despite the bombast around him.

Always. Until now.

So good. What wasn’t good was that White dominated the headlines, but Mike Quick was also in a protracted holdout that seemed less important, despite the fact he didn’t have a contract at all. Again, remember, there was no free agency then. It was a crazy time for players in the NFL.

EAGLES TALK TO WHITE BUT NOT QUICK

  • Mike Bruton, Inquirer Staff Writer
  • August 19, 1989

All was quiet yesterday between the Eagles and holdout receiver Mike Quick, but management held lengthy negotiations with holdout defensive end Reggie White.

White, agent Jimmy Sexton and Eagles president Harry Gamble engaged in discussions that could end White’s holdout, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

Meanwhile, White’s lawsuit against Patrick Forte, Gamble’s executive assistant, looms on the horizon.

The suit, scheduled to go to trial Monday, alleges that Forte, while serving as White’s agent in 1985, failed to inform White that an option year, the 1989 season, was included in his contract.

White, who would earn $440,000 this season, has refused a six-year, $10 million deal, according to Gamble. Gamble also has said that Quick turned down a three-year, $3 million pact.

Two days before White’s trial was supposed to begin, things really started to heat up. I know what happens next and I’m still nervous to keep reading!

HERE COME DA JUDGE EAGLES, WHITE TALK AT COURT’S REQUEST

  • Tim Kawakami, Daily News Sports Writer
  • August 19, 1989

It went for hours. Through the day, into the afternoon, dipping into the dark night.

Still nothing. No deal, no settlement on the lawsuit that has sparked the recent movement, no surrender.

The Reggie White Crisis goes on, and now both sides are definitely bumping up against Danger Time.

“The theme of the day is no progress,” White’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, said late last night after the 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. talks held at the federal courthouse in Center City.

“The Reggie White Crisis.” In early summer it was a one-day situation where Buddy Ryan expected White to show up for camp on day two. By August 19th, Philly was in full-on capital-C ‘Crisis’ mode.

WHITE TALKS GOING DOWN TO THE WIRE

  • Bill Ordine, Inquirer Staff Writer
  • August 21, 1989

Eagles president Harry Gamble said last night that he planned to meet with holdout Reggie White’s agent this morning in an attempt to reach a contract settlement before the start of a trial in the defensive end’s lawsuit against a former agent.

The trial in White’s civil suit against Patrick Forte, his former agent and a current Eagles executive, is set to begin this morning at 10 a.m. in federal court in Philadelphia. Gamble said he planned to meet with Jimmy Sexton at 9 a.m. An agreement on a new contract would halt the legal proceedings.

“As I’ve said so many times before, we’d like to sign Reggie and put all this behind us and get back to football,” Gamble said before last night’s Eagles-Jets exhibition game.

Above, the Inquirer preview of White’s court situation. Below, the Daily News recap. In pre-internet days, the afternoon paper was vital to reporting breaking news.

WHITE, EAGLES MAY COURT A DEAL

  • Tim Kawakami, Daily News Sports Writer
  • August 21, 1989

Past the 10 a.m. deadline it went. Past 11 a.m. and beyond.

Lawyers huddled. The judge scampered from room to room. And nothing happened.

Yet.

Thus it was in U.S. District Court here this morning at the scheduled time for the opening of Eagles’ star defensive end Reggie White’s $1.5 million lawsuit against Patrick Forte, his former agent and now Eagles assistant to the president.

White and the Eagles closeted themselves in separate locked rooms on the sixth floor of the federal courthouse at 6th and Market streets this morning, keeping alive hopes that they would reach a settlement on a new contract for White that would make his suit needless.

U.S. District Judge Charles Weiner, who was to hear the suit, traveled from room to room, possibly as a courier. Until Weiner was convinced that no contract deal could be fashioned, he was delaying the start of the trial for White’s suit.

So the day that nobody had wanted has come.

Last Friday, at a meeting instigated by Weiner, Sexton dropped his proposals to a three-year package averaging about $1.45 million a season. Previously, Sexton had been using the $1.5 million per year that Buffalo defensive lineman Bruce Smith received over five years as the benchmark from where White’s salary should begin. But Friday, Sexton said White would accept less for fewer years.

It is believed that on Friday the Eagles were offering a three-year deal nearer to $1.35 million a season.

If the two sides were making progress today, it is believed the judge would delay the start of the trial to allow the parties more time.

In 1989 a federal judge delayed a court case between Philadelphia’s top football player and an executive of the team he played for, then personally mediated the contract negotiations between the player and the team.

And we’re still freaking out about Sam Bradford missing a few days.

Finally, the next day…Reggie is back!

WHITE TO BECOME HIGHEST-PAID DEFENDER

  • Ed Hilt, The Press of Atlantic City Staff Writer
  • August 22, 1989

It was a day of courtrooms and lawyers, of judges and defendants, of back-room bargaining and compromises. On the surface, the scene at the federal courthouse Monday had nothing to do with football. In reality, as far as the Philadelphia Eagles were concerned it had everything to do with football.

It was amid this scene that the long contract war between the Philadelphia Eagles and Reggie White, their All-Pro defensive end, finally ended.

The Eagles and White agreed to a four-year contract that according to sources is worth a guaranteed $6.1 million, making him the highest-paid defensive player in the National Football League.

Young staff writer M.G. Missanelli got the assignment for the Inquirer.

EAGLES REACH AGREEMENT WITH WHITE

  • M. G. Missanelli, Inquirer Staff Writer
  • August 22, 1989

Ryan said he never doubted that White would agree to a contract.

“Reggie White wants to be an Eagle,” he said. “He has a lot of friends on our football team. He’s also very loyal to the coaching staff. It’s great to have Reggie back.

“There was never a doubt in my mind. I just didn’t know when, like everybody else. I know he’s in great shape, but you’ve got to get in hitting shape. You can’t just run and be ready to play football.”

The two sides began negotiating about 9 a.m yesterday – in different rooms. Gamble and the attorneys for Forte – Fran Malone and Tim O’Reilly – joined White’s party at about 11:45. For the next several hours, the parties came in and out of the rooms, and progress apparently was made a little at a time.

Later in the afternoon, White emerged, saying that the sides were “really close.” And at 4 p.m., they came out for good.

“One thing I’ll say is that I’m not bitter,” White said earlier in the afternoon. “I’ve read that in the papers, and that’s not the case at all.

“I’m just a little disappointed. This probably should have been taken care of a long time ago.”

There was surely some bitterness. Kawakami recounted the scene outside the courthouse.

WHITE, EAGLES AGREE ON 4-YEAR DEAL

  • Tim Kawakami, Daily News Sports Writer
  • August 22, 1989

They stood together under the demanding summer sun, but they did not smile.

They had an agreement, but they did not shake hands.

Reggie White and Eagles president Harry Gamble left the federal court building at Sixth and Market at the same time, but they chose to leave in different taxi cabs.

There weren’t any of the backslaps and hearty congratulations so customary in these big-time salary settlements. Just a short statement read by Gamble, then poof, they were gone.

So this is the way 18-month civil wars end – with mountains of treaty papers left to sign and a court order to stay silent.

And with the two sides, like weary generals at Appomattox, barely on speaking terms at all.

What did you expect when White finally called off his jihad against the Eagles, a party?

Imagine a writer today using Civil War and it not being about a superhero movie. Imagine anyone using ‘jihad’ about a football holdout. Different times. Alas, while White was officially back, the press conference to announce the deal wasn’t exactly joyous.

WHITE AND EAGLES MAKE IT OFFICIAL

  • Bill Ordine, Inquirer Staff Writer
  • August 23, 1989

Last night at Veterans Stadium, White, team president Harry Gamble, and White’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, assessed the results of 18 months of always difficult, sometimes bitter, negotiations in a news conference almost as tense as the long contract discussions had been.

In fact, right up until the last minute, White said he had reservations about it all coming to a conclusion.

“You’re always at that point,” White said. “A deal is not a deal until you put your name on the dotted line.”

One of the things holding up an agreement last night was the resolution of the issue of nearly $29,000 in fines White had amassed during his holdout.

“Myself and Harry worked it out where I would be giving the fine to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Memphis, Tennessee,” White said.

Bradman and Ryan, who said he was going to fine White as much as he possibly could, essentially almost blew up the deal because the Eagles wouldn’t back off on $29,000 in fines White was given for not showing up. That’s about how much Cox will get fined per day if he holds out through camp.

The Eagles finished 11-5 in 1989 but failed to win the NFC East, losing in the first round of the playoffs. A team with Super Bowl aspirations, back in late August, everyone was happy The Minister was back on defense.

REG-GIE MINISTER OF DEFENSE GETS A ROYAL WELCOME

  • Bill Ordine, Inquirer Staff Writer
  • August 24, 1989

Reggie White walked down the hill from the locker room to the practice field yesterday, holding his arms aloft as a crowd of fans cheered.

During the practice, quarterback Randall Cunningham and running back Keith Byars dumped a bucket of ice water on the unsuspecting White. And at the end of the workout, the squad hooted and hollered as White went through the dreaded up-down drills by himself, sweat streaming down his face.

The scene resembled a fraternity hazing. And Reggie White, his contract holdout at an end, seemed to love it.

“I’m just glad to be back and, praise the Lord, I had the opportunity to be back. We’re going to have a good time this year,” said White, who signed a new four-year, $6.1 million contract on Tuesday night.

“It was great,” White said of the reception from teammates earlier in the day. “I walked in and Cris Carter gave me a hug and the guys came to me. It made me feel welcome and that’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.”

And then there was the welcome from the fans.

“That was the greatest. I appreciate all the support the fans have given me and I know some of the fans didn’t agree with what I was doing,” he said. ”Everybody has an opportunity to agree or disagree, but walking around, a lot of people supported me. I’m glad to be back in here, not only for Buddy and the players but also the fans because a lot of people supported me.”

The upbeat mood of yesterday’s afternoon practice was the antithesis of some dark days over the last few months.

White talked about getting letters from fans who criticized him for being greedy, especially in light of the fact that he’s a licensed Baptist minister.

“Everyone thinks because you’re a Christian, you’re not suppose to be businesslike,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to those who are saved for other people to say, ‘Well, you’re a Christian and you shouldn’t ask for this much or that much.’ It just happens that I’m in a position to make a lot of money; a lot of people aren’t in this position. . . . Since I’m a Christian, to say I’ll take a $100,000-a-year job instead of $1.6 million a year, that would be stupid on my part.”

While White was relieved to have the 18 months of negotiations behind him, he also indicated that he wasn’t about to forget the anxiety he believes the Philadelphia management put him through needlessly.

“I have no bitterness or animosity against the Eagles,” he said. “I just don’t agree with how they handle things. And I’m not the only one who feels that way. Just about every player on the team feels that way. I don’t think every player (negotiating a contract) should have to wait out training camp.”

White fought for free agency for the NFL, and in 1993—after the contract he inked in ‘89 was up—he left for the Packers, spending six years in Green Bay before retiring in 2000. White was still a great player after the 1989 holdout, but the process fractured his relationship with the team, making it much easier for him to leave.

The NFL is very different now than it was in 1989. But in some ways…it’s still very much the same.

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