Ed Garvey, the lawyer who led the
Garvey died Wednesday at a nursing home outside Madison, Wis., after a battle with Parkinson's disease, the Capital Times reported. Garvey had been the players' union counsel and executive director from 1971 to 1983.
"Ed literally built us into a union, thanks to his brilliance and loyalty to the players, and no one will ever forget his biting and effective wit," current
A 1969 graduate of the
The nationally known labor attorney was a political heavyweight in Wisconsin, where he returned in 1983. Garvey ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat against incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Robert Kasten. In 1998, Garvey took on incumbent Gov.
He later created a website that featured progressive political content.
Garvey initially became involved with football when he was assigned to counsel NFLPA President John Mackey, a tight end who would make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as the union negotiated a new labor agreement with the league. Soon after, Garvey became the union's first executive director when the NFLPA became the certified bargaining agent for the players.
One of Garvey's main objectives was to eliminate the Rozelle Rule, which bound players to their teams by discouraging free agency. The union didn't achieve free agency until 1993, when another former player and Hall of Famer, Gene Upshaw, had taken over leading the union.
Upshaw led the players through another strike in 1987, when the NFL used replacement players for three games. Even though he no longer had an active role with the union, Garvey drew some criticism then for yet another walkout.
Short of gaining unfettered free agency, the union won major concessions from the owners, including improved packages of player benefits and $13.65 million in damages for antitrust violations against the players.
"Since being elected president of the NFL Players Assn., I am always reminded of a specific quote: 'We stand on the shoulders of giants,'" said