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.