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After Gene Upshaw died, union paid his widow $15 million

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When former NFL Players’ Association head Gene Upshaw died in 2008, the union paid his widow $15 million in deferred compensation. That money became the focal point of a legal battle between Upshaw’s widow and his son with his first wife, and it also has some former union members crying foul.

“Wherever Gene is, he should be ashamed of himself and his family should be ashamed for taking that money,” former Redskins and Colts linebacker Bob Grant, one of the former players suing the NFLPA over licensing money, told the Washington Post. “We have great players from the past who played 10 years or more collecting no more than $200 per month.”

The suit between Upshaw’s widow and his son was settled just before it was scheduled to go to trial this week, but the suit brought back into focus what has been a longtime criticism of Upshaw’s leadership of the union: He took too much pay himself, while doing too little for retired players.

“There’s no other union leader in this country who was compensated at the same rate as he was compensated,” former Browns defensive back Bernie Parrish, a plaintiff in a previous class-action suit against the union’s licensing arm, told the Post.

During his time as head of the NFL players’ union, Upshaw was consistently the highest-paid head of any sports union. He made $6.7 million in 2006.

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36 Responses to “After Gene Upshaw died, union paid his widow $15 million”
  1. norcalraider510 says: May 4, 2011 9:32 PM

    R.I.P Highway 63 Gene Upshaw

  2. bukes111 says: May 4, 2011 9:51 PM

    And don’t forget what he did for the players he was representing at the time. Negotiated the worst labor agreement of the 4 major sports. He couldn’t even get his players gauranteed contract. All the while, collecting a fat pay check for himself. But the players kept voting him in so they only had themselves to blame.

  3. tbssic says: May 4, 2011 9:52 PM

    Oh my lord!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You mean that someone who has millions of dollars at his finger tips and no one watching him,,,,, would steal money?????
    God help us,,,,, next thing you know, politicians will be doing it……

  4. dutchman1350 says: May 4, 2011 10:06 PM

    Deferred comp was gene’s money. Instead of crying foul, the league should set up a deferred comp plan for the players, so they have cash when they retire at the age of 30.

  5. eagleswin says: May 4, 2011 10:07 PM

    No wonder the players need more money, their leadership has been siphoning it all off.

  6. joey49er says: May 4, 2011 10:08 PM

    man thats way under what most union crooks get..its probaly because hes black…

  7. Davo says: May 4, 2011 10:15 PM

    You know, somehow, when I think “union”, I have images of guys who work on a factory line or descend a mile underground to mine coal. Basically, men and women who work hard to put their kids through college and afford the products they make on the line.

    The NFLPA is a union by legal standards, but it’s not your typical union, especially since the lowest paid member of it still earns a 6 figure salary. It’s a little hard to be calling out Upshaw on his salary while leading a “union”.

  8. smacklayer says: May 4, 2011 10:17 PM

    What is Debag Smith Salary and benfits package? Does anyon know?

  9. canetic says: May 4, 2011 10:27 PM

    Why do players deserve money when they retire at age 30? What other job pays you when you retire at age 30? You finish one job, you move onto another. They get paid plenty of money during their careers they should be responsible and save some of it.

  10. bluefan204 says: May 4, 2011 10:45 PM

    Yeah, because a union should bail out players who didn’t manage their money properly

    Gimme a damn break already with this nonsense. If I quit my job tomorrow, I wouldn’t see a dime from them, nor, I suspect, would anyone else who is reading this post.

  11. joaquinfenix says: May 4, 2011 10:48 PM

    Big labor at work.

    I’m looking at you, Wisconsin.

  12. 1bigtex says: May 4, 2011 11:00 PM

    Bob Hayes died penniless on his sister’s couch and Gene Upshaw’s widow gets $15 million. What’s wrong with this picture?

  13. footballhistorian says: May 4, 2011 11:17 PM

    This is typical off ALL unions…just another corrupt bunch of self-serving politicians…

  14. barklikeadog says: May 4, 2011 11:18 PM

    And who thinks unions are good for anyone other than the one ‘looking out’ for the minions? What a joke!

  15. snnyjcbs says: May 4, 2011 11:20 PM

    Give me a break, he built the Union into a strong force and always worked out great deals for the players.

    Other Union leaders steal the money behind closed doors what ever he was given had to be in his contract. Since he has been gone the Union has went fallen a great deal.

    He always got the players paid but never tried to destroy the game of football like they are today. Most of today’s players could not hold a candle to the players from his era.

  16. truwarier90 says: May 4, 2011 11:21 PM

    why couldn’t the union, spead the money out and help out veterans like andre water, duerson, bob hayes, mike webster, etc. ??????? wake up NFLPA

  17. goforthanddie says: May 4, 2011 11:43 PM

    “There’s no other union leader in this country who was compensated at the same rate as he was compensated,”
    There’s no other union leader whose constituents have such a high % of millionaires either. That does make a difference.

  18. Deb says: May 5, 2011 12:22 AM

    Didn’t know this, though the corrupting influence of power and money isn’t surprising. But we don’t throw out the democracy with the corrupt politicians Instead, we try to do a better job monitoring their activities and limiting their power.

    Before the NFLPA gained some leverage in the 1980s, the treatment of players was one of the worst stories in American labor history. Now the union must exist in order for the league to maintain its antitrust exemptions. The goal moving forward then is to ensure its executives receive reasonable compensation and that benefits are appropriately distributed among players past and present.

  19. 4evrnyt says: May 5, 2011 12:29 AM

    Shouldn’t she only get half of the money…

  20. fracas106 says: May 5, 2011 1:24 AM

    “And don’t forget what he did for the players he was representing at the time. Negotiated the worst labor agreement of the 4 major sports. He couldn’t even get his players gauranteed contract. All the while, collecting a fat pay check for himself. But the players kept voting him in so they only had themselves to blame.”
    What bullroar!! “Worse” than deals in NBA and NHL by former league employees? Check with experts in those sports to verify this.
    As for guaranteed contracts, more ignorance shown. NFL contracts contain signing bonuses–guaranteed money–and because of the salary cap “system” Upshaw negotiated once a signing bonus exceeds around $1.5-million a player has a 75% probability of being on a roster for at least 2 seasons.
    In a sport with a 100% injury rate each season, do you actually think owners would agree to fully guarantee every contract? Instead, the vast majority of NFL players have significant guaranteed money only it’s called something else.
    Who is Bob Grant anyhow and what did he ever do for players during and after his playing days?

  21. ledbulbsandlights says: May 5, 2011 2:21 AM

    The rich get rich and the poor get babies.

  22. duffer58 says: May 5, 2011 3:41 AM

    To all you anti Union idiots. What helped make the middle class in America Uh Unions to be sure. We live in a Country where 10 percent of the people own 90 percent of the wealth.
    Unions have their problems to be sure but they are needed.
    The players have had to fight in court for most of the rights they now have.
    The owners in this case are dead wrong.

  23. warhorse007 says: May 5, 2011 3:52 AM

    I guess ole Genes stubborn and ornery demeanor during labor negotiations kinda comes to a new light, huh?

    I guess his widow couldnt survive on less than that, and Gene explained this to the entire union who then voted on it and agreed………..

    ….huh?…….you mean the players never voted on this?

    *scratchin the head*

  24. ravensfan4life52 says: May 5, 2011 4:08 AM

    after hearing this the authorities started taking a closer look at Gene Upshaw’s death.

    jk

    it’s in bad taste i know. but i’m in college and it’s finals week. I needed to make a joke about something. forgive me. and i know. it’s not even that funny.

  25. geo1113 says: May 5, 2011 6:46 AM

    bukes111 says:
    He couldn’t even get his players gauranteed contract.
    __________________________

    Why do people keep saying this. There’s a tradeoff. Signing bonuses in place of guaranteed contracts. Exhibit 1 – Albert Haynesworth. Don’t act like the players are getting shafted.

  26. geo1113 says: May 5, 2011 7:55 AM

    1bigtex says:
    May 4, 2011 11:00 PM
    Bob Hayes died penniless on his sister’s couch and Gene Upshaw’s widow gets $15 million. What’s wrong with this picture?
    ____________________

    Bob Hayes died penniless and on his sister’s couch because of alcohol and drug abuse. As for the $15 million paid to the widow, if there is something wrong with the picture, who is to blame, Upshaw or the players who agreed to pay him as much as they did.

  27. sneaky1632 says: May 5, 2011 8:07 AM

    A corrupt union… shocking! so much for the money going to the players. If I was a retired NFL player I would be very upset right about now.

  28. jimphin says: May 5, 2011 8:28 AM

    So….pray tell….What is De Smith’s salary? Unfortunately, we don’t know because the books are not public.

    The players should know where every penny of their hard earned dues are going.

  29. danimalk82 says: May 5, 2011 8:31 AM

    What ever time period you lived in, playing professional football paid way more than the average job. If you didn’t invest properly (see Charlie Batch, Mark Brunell) it’s not the unions fault. This is one of a select few unions in the world that handle rich people. People should handle their money better. And don’t give me that crap about oh well the lowest paid players are not rich. Well they are still making 4-6 times the amount the average college educated worker makes, so plan better, invest better, and finish school and get a job like the rest of us after your playing career is over. I’m sick and tired of all of these people whining about money when they used to make tons of it and blew it all away. Actually, I’m sick and tired of hearing all of these rich a-holes complain about not getting a big enough piece of the pie. If they could all live in the day of the average worker in a middle class apartment driving a 25,000$ car and having to mow the yard, I’m sure they would all come around really quick.

  30. kmart0319 says: May 5, 2011 8:36 AM

    Duffer58 says “We live in a Country where 10 percent of the people own 90 percent of the wealth.”

    Yea, and 10% of the people pay 90% of the taxes too. I guess that is fair too. I guess what you want is a redistribution of that wealth to those who are too lazy to get off their a$$ and EARN a living and decent wage.

    Unions were needed during the industrial revolution to keep companies from forcing 16 hour work days, child labor, etc but state and federal laws have made them obsolete. Unions only exist to fatten union leadership’s pockets and kill companies’ competitiveness.

  31. thetooloftools says: May 5, 2011 9:13 AM

    Looks like the retired player Gene Upshaw really cared about was Gene Upshaw.

  32. lucky5934 says: May 5, 2011 9:25 AM

    During his time as head of the NFL players’ union, Upshaw was consistently the highest-paid head of any sports union. He made $6.7 million in 2006.

    I am simply appalled upon hearing this. What, 6.7 million a year wasn’t enough for her to live off of? They had to throw away 15 million dollars? Why does she deserve even 10% of that? No business I know of pairs deceased worker’s spouses when their loved one dies.

  33. yem123 says: May 5, 2011 9:33 AM

    To anyone who said he negotiated a bad deal for the players… if it was so bad, why do the owners want out?? come on..

  34. smacklayer says: May 5, 2011 11:29 AM

    DeBag Smith’s salary was $1.8million/year. It is now zero because he is not taking a salary while the lockout is in place. (my commentary: if the courts lift the lockout, will he start collecting checks again??). It is unclear whether he received a signing bonus when his original contract was signed. At the time, he was asking for a $500,000 signing bonus. Smith also receives unspecified fringe benefits including health insurance, 401k, etc.

  35. philsimmsisadouche says: May 5, 2011 11:33 AM

    It was deferred compensation people. That means that over a period of time the Union did not actually pay him his full salary, but instead invested some of his compensation into a fund that would mature and pay him a certain amount at a later date. Most organizations see this as a win-win. The employer invests a lesser amount in a fund and the employee sees a large payout at the end of the career.
    This case, as in any other, Upshaw had to negotiate his salary and terms with his employer; the NFLPA. In other words these terms were approved by the Union’s Executive Committee.
    I don’t know why people are getting so upset about this. He didn’t steal anything, and it’s not like he was in government service and was being paid with taxpayer money.
    As far as the people in the Union were concerned, he was doing a good job and was compensated accordingly.

  36. jimthev says: May 5, 2011 11:52 AM

    Given that D. Smith can’t get a deal done and hides behind rhetoric, I’d say that Gene was worth what he was getting paid.

    If a retired player wants more money, they might think about getting a job after football. That’s what Upshaw did.

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