Upshaw Threat Taken Seriously

Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure said Monday he takes as a serious threat comments made about him last week by Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association.  As reported by the Philadelphia Daily News on Friday, Upshaw defended his record for helping retired players and took aim at DeLamielleure, one of his harshest critics who has called for the NFLPA leader’s ouster.  “A guy like DeLamielleure says the things he said about me; you think I’m going to invite him to dinner?  No. I’m going to break his …damn neck,” Upshaw was quoted as saying.  Upshaw also said he told a group of Hall of Famers last year: “I’m not one to turn the other cheek.  You’re not going to hit me in the nose and I’m going to sit there and smile.”  Upshaw declined to comment when questioned by the Charlotte Observer in person Saturday at a retired players convention in Atlanta.  He also did not respond to e-mailed questions on Monday.
Several retired NFL players responded to Upshaw’s remarks; DeLamielleure, said Upshaw’s comments were unsettling to his family.  “At first, I was angry,” he said.  “All the competitiveness comes out in you and I thought, ‘I’d like to see him try.’  But then reality sets in.  “My wife was petrified.  We grew up in Detroit.  You know what unions are.  You hear about it.  She goes, ‘Hey, this guy is a head of a union, a powerful union, and when he makes a threat like that, you’d better take it serious.’  “I’m not afraid of Upshaw, but he has the means to do what he said.”  Hall of Fame linebacker Sam Huff, formerly of the Washington Redskins, said no one should take Upshaw’s comment lightly.  “You can’t say something like that,” said Huff.  “You’re threatening a guy’s life.” And former Cleveland Browns defensive back Bernie Parrish, a leader in the anti-NFLPA movement among retirees, said of Upshaw: “He’s got a lot of money at stake.  I don’t trust him not to be violent.  I have some concern for my friend Joe DeLamielleure.”
Dr. Tom Terrill, an expert on labor unions and a University of South Carolina distinguished professor emeritus stated, “Upshaw has been in that position a long time (24 years),”  “It sounds like he thinks he owns it. This is not a good attitude to have if you want to keep your position.  “Union leaders do this sometimes.  They get in positions where they get elected and re-elected and (they think) no one can challenge them, that they can overcome any opposition.  It’s just not wise to do that.”  If Upshaw, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman with the Oakland Raiders, were a current player or a team or a league employee, his comment might be considered a violation of the NFL’s new conduct policy.  One violation cited in the policy is “any crime involving the use or threat of physical violence to a person or persons.”  But due to the fact that he us head of the Players Association, Upshaw is immune to discipline under the policy.  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, through league spokesman Greg Aiello, declined comment. I think that Bruce Laird, former Baltimore Colts safety and head of the Baltimore chapter of the NFL Players Association, probably said it best: “What’s amazing is with the way the National Football League has had its problems in 2006 and 2007 and the concern about steroids and active players being out of line with drugs or guns, (here’s) the executive director of active players threatening another Hall of Famer”.  “I think as any player, whether you’re active or retired, you really have to sit back and go ‘Do you want this man representing you and the league?’  That is the real question.”

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