Basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal has mended fences with the striking Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.
O’Neal, while not apologizing for his recent strikebreaking ad for Disneyland, announced Monday his full support for striking actors.
The peacemaking move will take the pressure off SAG and AFTRA to discipline O’Neal, who upgraded his status as one of the world’s most popular athletes by leading the Los Angeles Lakers to the championship last week.
“I’ve been through two work stoppages in my career and I know how very difficult they are to union members and their families,” O’Neal said. “As a SAG and AFTRA member, I fully support the strike and hope that negotiations can resume in the very near future so both sides can get back to business as quickly as possible.”
SAG and AFTRA went on strike on May 1 and have not held formal negotiations since April 14. The NBA Players Assn. has advised its members not to shoot ads except under union-approved interim agreements.
SAG spokesman Greg Krizman admitted O’Neal’s statement decreases the possibility that the union’s trial boards, expected to begin hearing strikebreaking cases in the next few weeks, will levy a significant penalty against O’Neal.
“If this goes to a trial board, we would certainly consider the positive things that he has done,” he added. “We are trying to point the finger at companies that put athletes into this horrible position of having to choose between the union and their endorsement contracts.”
O’Neal taped the “I’m going to Disneyland” spot a few moments after the final game ended. Through his agent, he subsequently claimed that the spot represented a public service announcement since proceeds were donated to his charity for children.
O’Neal became the highest-profile member to break the strike, joining pro footballers Terrell Davis, Eddie George, Keyshawn Johnson and Kurt Warner, track stars Michael Johnson and Marion Jones and retired Gen. Colin Powell. Johnson subsequently said he would not shoot another spot during the strike and George said he might have not done the ad if he had known more about the issues.
Union supporters, including Dick Cavett, Judd Hirsch and Tony Roberts, picketed Monday at Niketown in New York because of the shoemaker’s shooting ads during the strike, including the spots with Johnson and Jones.