Statements From Around the NFL Regarding the Death Of Gene Upshaw

Statement from Jets Chairman & CEO Robert Wood Johnson IV on the Passing of NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw

“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.”


“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.”

Statement from Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie on the passing of Gene Upshaw:

“On behalf of the Philadelphia Eagles, 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 on the passing of Gene Upshaw

On what Gene Upshaw meant to the NFL:

“From where the union started to where it is today is leaps and bounds. A lot of that credit has to go with Gene and what he stood for. He stood his ground on a lot of key issues. With the backing of the players he was able to get us in a pretty good position in terms of health benefits with the presidents at the time, be it Troy [Vincent] and Trace [Armstrong]. They worked to get us in a very good position, and he’s left us in a very good position.”

On how shocked he was to learn of his passing today:

“A tremendous shock. I don’t know the situation of when he was diagnosed. I don’t know any of that information. 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.”


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.

Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney on the Death of Gene Upshaw

This is a sad day for all of professional football. We are shocked to learn of the sudden loss of Gene Upshaw. The NFL and the entire football world will miss him greatly.

Gene and I developed a close friendship that remained strong through the good times and some of the NFL’s most difficult challenges. We worked very closely on key issues that allowed the NFL to maintain unprecedented labor peace. His biggest asset was his understanding of the business of the game, and you always knew that his concern for the game’s best interests guided his actions.

Gene was a Super Bowl champion and a very deserving member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Our prayers go out to Gene’s wife Terri and his entire family. We will miss Gene, but his positive contributions to the NFL will have a lasting impact for many years to come.

San Francisco 49ers Statement on Gene Upshaw

The San Francisco 49ers are deeply saddened to learn of the untimely death of Gene Upshaw.

Today, the 49ers stand side by side with our cross- Bay rival team, the Raiders in mourning the passing of a great player on the field and a great leader off the field. For 14 years, Upshaw set the standard on one of the best offensive lines in the game. And after he retired, he devoted 25 years to being an outstanding advocate for his fellow players as executive director of the NFLPA.

“This is a loss for the entire NFL. Gene was the epitome of what the NFL stands for,” said team owner John York. “He was not only a man who gave his very best on the field every game during his great career, but he was a man of integrity and service off the field. The thoughts and prayers of everyone in the San Francisco 49ers organization are with his family today. Gene passed away far too young, and he will be greatly missed.”


“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.”

Statement from New England Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft on the passing of Gene Upshaw

“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.”

VP, NFLPA Executive Committee Tony Richardson

On his thoughts on the passing of NFL Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw…

We didn’t know anything (about Upshaw’s illness). I guess he just found a few days ago. People are still in shock. We haven’t had a chance to speak to anyone from the league yet or our union office. We’re definitely going to miss Gene because he was a tremendous leader for our organization.

On what he thinks Upshaw’s legacy will be among the players…

Hopefully, everyone in this locker room recognizes that they’re a lot better for having Gene as their leader. He did so much. Every guy in this locker room can say they benefited from his leadership. The league has benefited from his leadership. The salaries are – it is what it is. Our game is better from his leadership. He is definitely going to be missed.

On if he thinks the players were unfair to Upshaw at times…

That’s part of it. Whenever you’re in a leadership position sometimes there are going to be things that are said or written about you that are sometimes true and sometimes are not. That’s just the nature of it. Gene was a man’s man. He spoke what was on his heart and he wore it on his shoulder. From a leadership standpoint he did a tremendous job for us.

On how it was to be around Upshaw…

We had a lot of great meetings. There were a lot of times when we obviously had to take care of work, it was a serious approach, but behind close doors we would sit and laugh and talk. Really he is a player and I think sometimes people forget that Gene Upshaw was a hall of fame offensive lineman. He was one of the guys. We had a good time and he is definitely going to be missed.

On if Upshaw used to tell stories about his playing days …

You really couldn’t get him to talk much about his (Oakland) Raider days. He would shed a little bit of light on it. Most Hall of Fame players let you know they’re in the Hall of Fame. If you’re around Gene long enough, obviously I remember because I remember watching him play, but he wasn’t the type of guy that would always talk about his accomplishments. His main focus was the union and that’s what he lived for.

On being one of the few players that can remember Upshaw’s playing days…

I know (I’m one of few players that remembers watching Upshaw play for the Raiders) – me and (Brett) Favre. Favre may have played with him (laughing). A lot of guys don’t know his playing days.

Jets Player Rep Brandon Moore

On the kind of player Gene Upshaw was…

He’s in the Hall of Fame right (laughs)? From what I hear, he was a pretty good player. I’ve seen the classic films on television. He’s one of the pillars of the Oakland Raiders organization. He was a hell of a player.

On Gene Upshaw being a player that people won’t forget…

Sometimes you don’t know your history. You could forget. He didn’t care that he was a Hall of Fame guard, one of the premier linemen in this league. He didn’t wear it on his sleeve.

On how he’ll be remembered from a standpoint with the union…

He built it up with a couple of other guys. He was the man who started it and got it organized with a lot of help from a lot of other people. His services to the league for five decades won’t be questioned. His services to the players won’t be questioned. I think he’ll be remembered as a guy that had the best interest of the players and took a stand and started out when their wasn’t a lot of people in favor of that transition. He’ll be remembered greatly by the players in the NFL.