August 21, 2008

NFLPA Director Gene Upshaw Dies: Gene Upshaw, the Hall of Fame offensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders who has led the NFL Players Association as executive director for 24 years, has died of pancreatic cancer at age 63.

posted by rcade to football at 09:56 AM - 13 comments

Wow, that's surprising. RIP.

posted by bperk at 10:19 AM on August 21, 2008

Few individuals come along who have the physical skills to be an all-time great at their position, and also the genius to lead a major powerful union like the NFLPA. Gene dedicated his entire life to football, physically and mentally for decades. Pancreatic cancer is ruthless. RIP Mr. Upshaw.

posted by knowsalittle at 10:37 AM on August 21, 2008

Under Upshaw's leadership, the NFLPA denied health claims for numerous former NFL players who are struggling with debilitating injuries. Reading their stories, I could never understand how a former player could turn his back on them, when he knew the physical toll the league exacts on many of its participants.

posted by rcade at 11:03 AM on August 21, 2008

No doubt some of Upshaw's motives had to be in question with regard to the health claims issue. In the OTL story on ESPN a while back, I will say that his arguement seemed weak, contrived, and surprising that he seemed to personally, not just professionally, support the denial of many of the claims. At least under Upshaw, the NFLPA never cost us half a season or more over contract negotiation strikes/holdouts/lockouts.

posted by knowsalittle at 12:00 PM on August 21, 2008

Who was head of the NFLPA during the last football strike and why did that strike happen? I don't remember and I don't have the time to do the research (you know, that "work thing" getting in the way and all)

posted by yzelda4045 at 01:14 PM on August 21, 2008

Upshaw was in his fourth year of leading the NFLPA when the 1987 strike occured.

posted by rcade at 03:06 PM on August 21, 2008

It was primarily about the players desire for free agency. The season's third week was cancelled outright, and the dreaded 'replacement players' were used in weeks 4-6. Only about 15% of the NFLPA members crossed the strike lines to play before ownership agreed to return to the bargaining table. Two years later a court supplied the ruling allowing for a rule-laden free agency in the NFL.

posted by knowsalittle at 03:14 PM on August 21, 2008

yzelda, I have searched a bit and all I can find is Upshaw was executive director in 1983 and played a big part in the strike of 1987 (don't know too much about the strike of '82) So I don't know if being E.D. is the "head" or not. Currently the president is Kevin Mawae of the Tennessee Titans. And Richard Berthelsen has been appointed interim Executive Director.

The cancer must have come on really quick or he ignored symtoms. To find out and die that!

posted by steelergirl at 03:23 PM on August 21, 2008

I was not a fan of Gene Upshaw, and like rcade said he denied health claims for many players. That said, his death is still sad news.

How is the new director chosen?

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 04:20 PM on August 21, 2008

Interesting or ironic that Upshaw led players strike in 1987, the same year he was voted into the Hall of Fame. Heard on the radio that someone said he was one of the most five influential persons in history in creation and growth of the NFL. True? And who would be the other four? Hunt, Halas, Rozelle, ???

posted by graymatters at 05:09 PM on August 21, 2008

The cancer must have come on really quick or he ignored symtoms. To find out and die that!

Pancreatic cancer is scary. The average life expectancy is only 3 to 6 months.

posted by bperk at 05:25 PM on August 21, 2008

Pancreatic cancer is scary. The average life expectancy is only 3 to 6 months.

Partly because early pancreatic cancer doesn't cause symptoms. Once it's found it is hard to treat, or as often the case, untreatable.

posted by apoch at 04:16 AM on August 22, 2008

Not a fan either, but repectful of anyone who dedicates nearly 50 years to his profession.

posted by knowsalittle at 10:49 PM on August 22, 2008

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