Gene Upshaw Remembered: A Lasting Presence


By Andrew Brandt, Former Packers VP – National Football Post and Special to NFL Gridiron Gab

I went to Gene Upshaw’s memorial service yesterday in Washington, D.C. I was to teach my opening Sports Law class of the semester at Georgetown Law School, but those students could wait; we were eulogizing one of Sports Law’s central figures. The football world was paying its respects to one of the true seminal figures in the history of the NFL.

There were some wonderful moments, at times humorous, at times tearful, and always reverential. We wore buttons with GU 63 on them, the first tribute of many including a tribute set to occur at all opening day games this weekend.

The attendees reflected on the power and influence of Upshaw, who has passed in the midst of a potential bargaining of the most important labor agreement in NFL history. A bus arrived transporting members of the NFLPA, unloading dozens of workers on a day where the offices were rightfully closed. And there were dozens of NFL players, past and present, filling the Kennedy Center halls in tribute to Gene. The outpouring of attendance from the player side was to be expected. What stood out was the large number of NFL league and team officials to pay their respects to Gene.

Attending, of course, were former Commissioner Tagliabue and Commissioner Goodell and all of their lieutenants. Also attending were several NFL owners, as I noticed Bill Bidwell, Arthur Blank, Jerry Richardson, John York, and Dan Snyder, all attending with team officials and/or family members. The respect from the other side of the bargaining table was evident and justified throughout Gene’s career. Indeed, the NFL owners have been complaining about the present collective bargaining agreement, giving the players the best deal they have had by a good margin, since the ink was barely dry on what Gene negotiated in March of 2006.

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