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.