More Reaction to Gene Upshaw's Death
Some of the reaction to the death of Gene Upshaw, both in interviews conducted today (I was in the Giants' locker room this afternoon) and in written statements issued by various organizations...
Robert Smith, former Vikings running back: "It's a pretty dramatic shock. If you live long enough, you realize tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us. It's a day of mourning. But it's also a day to celebrate what the man accomplished. So many people tried to disparage him, but his record so clearly speaks to the job he did.
"The results speak for themselves. A lot of people forget there's no such thing as unanimous support in any body you represent. But from a results standpoint, what more could you want? The retired players, some of them are getting four times what they would have gotten if Gene hadn't been there. The stuff about being too close to [Paul] Tagliabue, I'd like to have anyone explain to me how the players haven't been served by Gene. The owners just opted out of this labor deal because it was such a bad deal for them and such a good deal for the players."
Renaldo Wynn, Giants defensive lineman: "Gene did a hell of a job. Everyone is not going to agree with every idea a guy comes up with, but he did a hell of a job. Rest in peace to Gene. We're going to miss him, that's for sure."
Antonio Pierce, Giants linebacker: "It's a sad day for the NFL. He changed the game for the players. If you research how it was for players before he came along, he definitely improved things by a lot. Everyone in this locker room owes him a debt of gratitude.
"It's crazy. He looked healthy to me. That age, 63, that's a young age."
Daniel Snyder, Redskins owner: "With Gene's passing the NFL has lost an innovator, players have lost their advocate and I have lost a friend. A Hall of Fame player, Gene was also a hall of fame businessman and negotiator. He always had the best interests of the NFL players at heart, and that played a large role in building our league to the prominence it enjoys today. My prayers and the prayers of the Washington Redskins organization go out to his family at this sad time."
Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner: "Gene Upshaw did everything with great dignity, pride, and conviction. He was the rare individual who earned his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame both for his accomplishments on the field and for his leadership of the players off the field. He fought hard for the players and always kept his focus on what was best for the game. His leadership played a crucial role in taking the NFL and its players to new heights. Gene's tremendous love of the game also showed in his wide-ranging support of football at all levels. It is a sad day for the NFL, but Gene's positive impact and legacy will live on for decades to come. All of us in the NFL reach out with our sympathy to Terri and the Upshaw family."
Woody Johnson, Jets owner: "I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Gene Upshaw. He was a giant in the NFL since entering the league in 1967, first as a Hall of Fame offensive lineman, then as an active member of the collective bargaining process in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and finally as the executive director of the NFLPA. Gene continually served in the best interests of the game of football. He played a colossal role in the success the NFL enjoys today, even more than many people realize."
Jeffrey Lurie, Eagles owner: "I am very saddened and shocked to learn of Gene Upshaw's passing this morning. Whether it was as a Hall of Fame offensive lineman with the Oakland Raiders or as executive director of the NFL Players Association, Gene was a tremendous leader and a wonderful person. Gene always believed the best way to build the popularity of our sport was to craft a dynamic partnership between the players and the owners that served the best interest of the fans. We, as well as the entire NFL family, will miss his presence dearly and our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Terri, and their three sons."
Brian Dawkins, Eagles safety and member of the union's executive board: "To have someone of Gene's age and the way he carried himself, to all of a sudden receive a phone call that Gene has passed away was a huge shock to me. That's why I always live my life in a certain way and that's to make sure my house is in order because you never know when that time is coming."
Arthur Blank, Falcons owner: "We were all saddened to learn of Gene Upshaw's passing. I have great respect for Gene's unprecedented Hall of Fame career. I also admired Gene Upshaw the union leader for his leadership, intelligence and partnership during his 25-year career with the NFL Players Association. Most importantly, I admired Gene Upshaw the person. He was a true gentleman and his contributions to our great game--first as a high-character, highly-skilled player; and later as the head of the players union--will never be forgotten. I extend my prayers for a wonderful man, a hero of the NFL, and the entire Falcons family extends its deepest condolences to Gene's wife Terri and to his sons, Justin, Daniel, and Eugene, Jr."
Pat Bowlen, Broncos owner: "I am stunned and saddened by the news of Gene Upshaw's death. I enjoyed working with Gene over the years and found him to be a complete professional, a great credit to the game and a man of outstanding character. He will be missed. My deepest sympathy goes out to his family."
John Sweeney, AFL-CIO president: "We are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of our friend Gene Upshaw, executive director of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) and a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council since 1985.
"Gene was a strong and effective advocate for NFL players, fighting successfully to reward the players' hard work and athletic skill with a fair share in the prosperity of the league. What is less well known is his strong support of the larger labor movement and his conviction that the union for professional athletes should be a part of it.
"A dignified, often quiet man who displayed his toughness through his achievements, Gene will be remembered for his leadership in bringing the NFL players through a difficult strike in 1987, opening the door for free movement between teams, and for his solid bargaining wins on behalf of the players--wins scored even while bringing labor peace.
"Gene will also be remembered for his skills on the field during 15 seasons as an offensive lineman with the Oakland Raiders and for his unforgettable accomplishments as a player on two winning Super Bowl teams, a seven-time Pro Bowl player and member of both the NFL Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"We will miss his counsel. On behalf of the working men and women of the AFL-CIO, we extend our condolences and prayers to the family of Gene Upshaw and the members and fans of the National Football League."
Robert Kraft, Patriots owner: "I am deeply saddened today to learn of Gene Upshaw's passing. He is a man I have always admired and respected. Through hard work and perseverance, Gene accomplished so much in his life. He was passionate about the game of football and dedicated much of his adult life to improving the game, not just for the benefit of the players, but for the benefit of all our fans, too. His many on-field accomplishments earned him a place among the all-time greats in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But his contributions to the game go way beyond the playing field. His union leadership has been one of the key factors to the exponential growth that the league and all of its players have enjoyed over the past two decades. Gene represented the players the way I would want to be represented: with understanding, integrity and a steadfast commitment to doing what was right for them and what was best for the game. On behalf of my family and the entire New England Patriots organization, I extend our sincerest sympathies to his wife, Terri, and the entire Upshaw family. Gene's legacy on the game will be lasting and his presence will be missed."
Kevin Mawae, Titans center and current president of the Players Association: "Gene was a leader, mentor and friend to me and many others throughout his lifetime. Today is a sad day for all those who knew him. As Gene would have wanted, the NFL Players Association will continue to move forward in making the NFL the greatest professional sports league in the country."
Al Davis, Raiders owner: "The Raider organization, the National Football League and the world have lost a great man. Gene Upshaw's career successes as a professional football player and a union leader are unparalleled. He is as prominent a sportsman as the world has known. He was and will remain a part of the fabric of our lives and of the Raider mystique and legacy. We loved him and he loved us. We will miss him. Our hearts go out to Terri and the boys.
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