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Pro gridiron union head Upshaw dies of cancer

Pro gridiron union head Upshaw dies of cancer

Gene Upshaw, the American football Hall of Fame lineman who during a quarter century as head of the pro gridiron players union helped get NFL players free agency and the riches that came with it, has died. He was 63.
Upshaw died Wednesday night at his home in Lake Tahoe, California, of pancreatic cancer, which was diagnosed only last Sunday, the NFL Players Association said Thursday. His wife Terri and sons Eugene Jr., Justin and Daniel were by his side.
"Few people in the history of the National Football League have played the game as well as Gene and then had another career in football with so much positive impact on the structure and competitiveness of the entire league as Gene," former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said.
Current commissioner Roger Goodell offered similar praise.
"Gene Upshaw did everything with great dignity, pride, and conviction," Goodell said. "He was the rare individual who earned his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame both for his accomplishments on the field and for his leadership of the players off the field."
Upshaw died only two days after the union announced he would hold a briefing on labor negotiations before the Sept. 4 season opener between Washington and the New York Giants. The NFLPA's executive committee appointed longtime general counsel Richard Berthelsen as the union's acting executive director Thursday afternoon.
Upshaw's outstanding 15-season playing career was entirely with the Oakland Raiders and included two Super Bowl wins and seven Pro Bowl appearances.
In 1983, he became executive director of the players' association and guided it through the 1987 strike that led to three weeks of a season with non-union replacement players.
By 1989, while the union was pressing in court for a settlement, the league implemented a limited form of freedom, called Plan B. In 1993, when a new contract was finally reached, free agency and a salary cap were instituted.
Since then, the players have prospered so much that NFL owners recently opted out of the latest labor contract, which was negotiated two years ago by Upshaw and Tagliabue.
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AP Football Writer Barry Wilner contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-04-19 17:54 GMT+08:00