In 1987, the NFL players went on strike, and owners brought in replacement players for three weeks of the season. Washington’s replacement players went 3-0, including a huge upset of a Dallas team that had several players cross the picket line, and after the strike ended Washington’s regular players went on to win the Super Bowl.
At the time, only the regular players got Super Bowl rings. Yesterday, that changed: Washington gave Super Bowl rings to its replacement players, at a ceremony attended by Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams and one of the team’s best defensive players, Dexter Manley.
“It was surreal,” Skip Lane, one of 25 replacement players in attendance, told ESPN. “Even walking in here I never really thought I was going to get the ring. I still don’t believe it’s on my hand. It’s a fantasy almost. It’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s been such a long time coming. I think it’s going to take a while to set in that it’s on my hand. I keep touching it.”
During the strike, many regular players expressed anger at the scabs who gave the NFL’s owners leverage in negotiations. But over time a respect has grown for the 1987 Washington replacement team, which banded together to win all three games without any regular NFL players. Amazingly, in the very last replacement game — after the players’ union had agreed to end the strike but before it was officially over — a Washington team featuring only replacements beat a Dallas team that had several stars cross the picket line, including starting quarterback Danny White, Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett and Hall of Fame defensive lineman Randy White. It was one of the greatest upsets in NFL history.
And it was a game that helped Washington win the NFC East. Although the replacement players who got their rings yesterday were long gone by the time Washington won the Super Bowl, they helped the team get there. And yesterday they were recognized.