Bernie Parrish dies at 83

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Bernie Parrish, an All-Pro NFL defensive back who was a key voice during the early stages of the efforts of players to fight the league for fair treatment, has died. He was 83.

Parrish played for the Browns from 1959 through 1966, intercepting 29 passes in seven years. He served as a starter on the Browns’ 1964 NFL championship team, a title run capped by a 27-0 win over the Colts.

He also served as a Vice President in the NFL Players Association. In 1965, Parrish publicly called for Commissioner Pete Rozelle to be replaced by then-former Browns coach Paul Brown. That tactic angered Browns owner Art Modell, who considered trading Parrish.

“I’ll stick to my guns and fight for a new Commissioner,” Parrish said at the time. “Paul Brown is the answer to our problem.”

Early in the 1966 season, the Browns released Parrish. He signed with the Houston Oilers of the AFL.

After retiring from football, Parrish tried to organize a joint NFL/AFL players union through the Teamsters. He wrote They Call It A Game in 1971, a best-seller that included the contention that the league rigs the outcomes of games, but that provided little hard evidence to support the claim.

6 responses to “Bernie Parrish dies at 83

  1. RIP Mr. Parrish. I remember reading his book when it came out. I was about 14/15 at the time and thought it was quite revealing and different from the usual sports books in that era. A great read. Maybe a little self serving when he described his role in the 1964 Championship game, but a great read, nonetheless.

  2. RIP Bernie Parrish…Should be in the HOF as the ultimate player advocate, who helped players benefit from truly greedy owners. His book dared defy the NFL Establishment, and showed not only how owners and organized gambling stayed in bed together, but how the NFL fleeced Congress, by declaring it was a “non profit” business that needed anti trust exemption to stay relevent…what a laugh.
    Bernie was also an excellent player, who was blackballed by his own owner in Cleveland, because he knew how greedy Modell was, and called him out for it.

  3. Everyone who loves pro football, but never understood how the NFL works behind the scenes and how owners truly were and are, needs to read his book, They Call It A Game…

  4. After many nfl seasons where the idea of rigged games
    could be challenged and argued by the nfl and their media/fans…
    … the 2019 nfl season is a smoking gun.

    Bernie Parrish died knowing he was right.

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