Headline NFL Players

Cancer Takes Down Upshaw

NFLPA Executive Director, Gene Upshaw, passed away last night at the age of sixty-three.  The news comes just days after Upshaw was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  While Gene Upshaw has definitely had his fair share of critics since leaving his professional football playing days to take over the throne at the NFLPA, his critics would still say that he always had the players’ interests in mind and fought long and hard to make the NFLPA a strong entity that owners would not be able to ignore.

Gene Upshaw became Executive Director of the NFLPA in 1983 and served in such capacity until his recent death.  He has been a topic of conversation numerous times on  In 2007, he was ranked #33 in BusinessWeek’s Power 100.  But earlier this year, we started to cover some of the complaints that Upshaw was receiving from within his players’ association.  Matt Stover said that Upshaw was on his way out as Executive Director, but Kevin Mawae, the active-players-leader of the NFLPA, refuted Stover’s comment.  It did not help that Dawkins backed Stover’s claim.  Gene Upshaw did not want to hear the mention of a succession plan, and got veterans like Trace Armstrong to defend him against those who were making public statements against his role as Exec Director.

No matter what your thoughts are on how Gene Upshaw handled the oversight of NFL players, you can be rest assured that he cared about active, injured, and retired players alike.  For over twenty years, his life was devoted to giving NFL players increased rights and strengthening their position against ownership in connection with labor issues.  Gene will be missed by all.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.