SBD/Issue 175/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Former Players Upset At Upshaw For Threatening Comments

Former Players Upset With Upshaw's
Comments Towards DeLamielleure
NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw telling the Philadelphia Daily News last week that he was "going to break [Pro Football HOFer Joe DeLamielleure's] damn neck" has “sparked an angry response from former NFL players,” according to Greg Johnson of the L.A. TIMES. Former NFLer Bruce Laird, who leads an activist group of former players in Baltimore, said of Upshaw's comments, “You can’t do that in high school, much less at a union in a $7[B] industry.” Upshaw did not respond to interview requests. Johnson reports some retired players are “considering protests during the [HOF] induction ceremonies in August and are gathering signatures from fans to draw attention to what they view as low pension and medical benefits.” Two players have filed a class-action lawsuit against the union alleging financial irregularities, and others are “producing DVDs that relate poignant stories of former NFL players who are wrestling with serious financial and health problems.” Pro Football HOFer Mike Ditka said, “The only way to get through to people is to keep knocking on the door. ... Over a period of time that might mean embarrassing the NFL, embarrassing the [NFLPA], embarrassing Upshaw and embarrassing the current players” (L.A. TIMES, 6/6).

GOODELL SIDESTEPS ISSUE: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did not directly address Upshaw’s comments yesterday during a luncheon in Charlotte honoring Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson, but he said, “I don’t think there is anybody that I know of that’s done more for the retired players, and players in general, than Gene Upshaw. ... We have a genuine interest in doing what’s respectful for the players” (THE DAILY). But in Baltimore, Ken Murray writes Goodell “clearly resented the latest firestorm in the league’s relationship with its former players.” NFLPA founding member Bernie Parrish, one of the players who filed the suit against the union, said he considers Upshaw a “dangerous man.” Parrish: “Running off at the mouth, threatening to break [DeLamielleure’s] neck, is an exposure of what he is like” (Baltimore SUN, 6/6). Panthers S Mike Minter said that Upshaw’s comments “were inappropriate” but he supports Upshaw’s leadership. Minter: “Even though (another) guy might be wrong and not looking at all the facts, you need to say what you say without threatening.” Minter added that Upshaw “should apologize” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 6/6). ESPN.com’s Mark Kreidler wrote the question of "whether Upshaw is still fit to run the NFLPA is ... absolutely the right one to ask.” Upshaw has become a “caricature of the serious-minded union chief he once was regarded as being” (ESPN.com, 6/5).

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