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Gene Upshaw has been Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association since June 1983, after a successful 16-year career as a player. Since then, Upshaw has worked diligently at enhancing, protecting and defending the individual rights of professional football players throughout the National Football League. Upshaw also serves as Chairman of National Football League Players Incorporated.
A perennial All-Pro offensive guard for the Oakland Raiders, Upshaw was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, his first year of eligibility. He played in 217 league games and appeared in six Pro Bowls. He was named Lineman of the Year in the AFC in 1973 and 1974. In 1977, he was voted top lineman in the NFL, and runner-up for that honor in 1980. Upshaw is the only player in NFL history to play in three Super Bowls in three different decades, in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
Upshaw was a team captain, while also serving as an NFLPA player representative and officer for 13 years. He served as alternate representative or player representative for the Raiders from 1970 to 1976 and was a member of the executive committee from 1976 through 1980 when he was elected president of the NFLPA, a post to be held until 1983.
As an officer of the NFLPA, Upshaw took part in all negotiations leading up to the 1977, 1982 and 1993 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFLPA and the NFL, and extensions of the CBA in 1996, 1998 and 2001.
“Gene shows the same level of ability at the NFLPA that he had shown on the field,” said Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner of the NFL.
Serving as an AFL-CIO vice president, Upshaw has emerged as one of the most powerful labor leaders in America.
“Gene is a man of common decency who doesn’t try to intimidate people. He has the sense of compassion that the great labor leaders all have,” said L.A. AFL-CIO chief Bill Robertson.
In 1980, Gene was a recipient of the prestigious Byron “Whizzer” White Humanitarian Award for outstanding contribution to “team, community and country.” In 1982, he was honored with the A. Phillip Randolph Award for significant accomplishments as one of the outstanding black leaders in America. In 1993, Upshaw was listed as 13 th in the top 100 most powerful people in sports, according to the 1993 edition of the annual list compiled by The Sporting News.
Upshaw has made the NFLPA a leader among players associations by making it the first such association to create a for-profit corporation for player group licensing. That company is called National Football League Players Incorporated, also known as PLAYERS INC, and Gene is the Chairman of the Board. This unique corporation has expanded beyond the typical association licensing activities. PLAYERS INC is involved in the creation, ownership and marketing of special events, promotions, publishing and recording and broadcasting project, just to name a few of its groundbreaking achievements.