Some thoughts from Gene Upshaw

In June of 2008, just 2 months before Gene Upshaw’s death and one month after the NFL owners opted out of the current labor deal that will expire at midnight on Thursday, I did a 90-minute interview with the late NFLPA executive director in his Washington, D.C. office. Here a few interesting snippets from that interview:

(on former commissioner Paul Tagliabue): ``Probably the most important thing Paul has done is kept us out of the courtroom. He knew and I knew that if we stayed out of the courtroom and used the league’s assets, which is the players, we could grow the game in a way that would be unbelievable. And that’s what happened.’’

(on the owners wanting cap credit for stadium repairs and other capital improvements in addition to stadium construction): ``That’s the issue. We agreed it had to be revenue-producing (to get cap credit from the union). They can’t just do stuff because they want to do it and think we’re going to help pay for it. That’s not going to happen. Because at the end of the day, they still own the stadium, not us.’’

(on Tagliabue’s successor, Roger Goodell): ``Rogers has to be able to do what Paul was able to do all those years, which was build a consensus. Paul never walked into a room and took a vote. It took him time. That was the way he worked. But there are a lot of new owners now that Roger’s dealing with that Paul didn’t have to deal with. That makes the dynamics a little different. But Roger and I have been able to work together on all of the issues so far. This (a new CBA) will be the test. This will definitely be the test. Because the thing about what we both do, I have to deliver the players and he has to deliver the owners. If either one of us can’t do that, we can’t make a deal. There won’t be a deal. I need him to be strong and he needs me to be strong.’’

(on the owners claim that the current labor deal is unbalanced and weighted too much toward the players) ``We’re not taking their word and their reporting system as a means to determine how well they’re doing. There’s a lot we would need to see and digest and believe. It can’t just be the same reporting package that (each team) sends to the league. Because they lie. If you look at the Packers financials from a year ago, they made $18 million. The league says, `Well, that’s an anomaly. They’re different.’ Yeah, they’re different (community-owned). But $18 million is $18 million. Any company would love to make $18 million. You’ve got stadiums and franchises increasing in value every year. You’ve got your payroll pretty much set. And you’re able to make $18 million profit? Not a bad deal.’’

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