Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gene Upshaw 1945-2008

I was shocked this evening when I got into my car to head home from work, and the local sports talk radio station was talking about Gene Upshaw passing away. Upshaw had not been feeling well for about a week, and on Sunday his wife convinced him to go to the emergency room because his breathing was labored. At the emergency room, Upshaw received the diagnosis that he had pancreatic cancer. Four days later, he passed away at the age of 63.

Upshaw had a hall of fame football career as an offensive lineman from 1967-1981. playing his entire career with the Oakland Raiders. During his playing career, he was selected to seven Pro Bowl, was a five time first team All-Pro, and was a member of two Super Bowl Championship teams. His playing career culminated with his enshrinement into Pro Football's Hall of Fame in 1987.

Upshaw stayed close to the game in retirement becoming involved in the NFL Players Association. In 1983, he was named executive of the union. Under his leadership, he led the players through a strike in 1987. After the strike, he helped broker a deal for the players that has helped raise players salaries dramatically. Since the strike in 1987, there have been no work stoppages in the NFL, making it the longest of the major sports leagues to go without a work stoppage.

One can only hope that whoever takes over the union will have the same success as Upshaw. He was not without his critics, but one can not argue with the success the players have enjoyed over the years. One of the reasons, I believe, that the popularity of football has grown so much in recent years is because of the labor stability of the league during the Upshaw years. RIP, Gene, you will be missed.


  1. Very nice tribute, Dick. I didn't know he had died.

  2. Thanks, I could not believe it. Then when I read that he was diagnosed on Sunday and died on Thursday. Unbelievable. It is one thing to hear someone lost a long battle with cancer, it is quite another to hear what happened to him.



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