Upshaw schaffte es als einziger Spieler in drei verschiedenen Dekaden in der Super Bowl zu stehen (II, XI und XV). Von seinen Teamkameraden wurde der in den Baumwollfeldern von Texas aufgewachsene Upshaw wegen seiner Führungsqualitäten und Intelligenz schlicht ‚The Govenor‘ genannt.
Er war der erste reine Offensive Guard, der es in die Hall Of Fame schaffte. Obwohl er erst in seinem Senior-Jahr an der High School mit dem Footballsport begann, wurde er von den Raiders als First Round Draft Pick nach Oakland geholt.
Nach seiner aktiven Karriere stand er 25 Jahre lang an der Spitze der NFL-Spielergewerkschaft. Kritiker sagten ihm oftmals ein zu ausgeprägtes Naheverhältnis zur NFL nach, allerdings gab es unter seiner Führung nie einen Spieler-Streik und das heutige Bezahlungsmodell in der National Football League wird seinem diplomatischen Geschick zugeschrieben.
Upshaw verheimlichte seine schwere Erkrankung in der Öffentlichkeit, bekam selbst erst kürzlich die Diagnose Bauchspeicheldrüsenkrebs gestellt und arbeitet bis kurz vor seinem Tod weiter. Sein Ableben kam daher für viele seiner Freunde und Mitstreiter überraschend.
Lesen Sie hier die Reaktionen aus den USA zu Upshaws Tod.
Commissioner Roger Goodell
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.
Jets Chairman & CEO Robert Wood Johnson IV
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.
Wahington Redskins Owner Daniel M. Snyder
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."
Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie
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.
Eagles Free Safety Brian Dawkins
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.
Falcons Owner & CEO Arthur Blank
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
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
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."
Denver Broncos Preident Pat Bowlen
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.
New England Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft
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.
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.
Raiders Statement – Owner Al Davis
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.
Gene was an outstanding advocate for the players and he made many great contributions to our sport. He was also a good and decent man. He will be sorely missed.“
It was a real shock waking up this morning and hearing that Gene had passed away. And it was such a shock because we all talk about Raiders, and Raider family, and team being family and when something like this happens, you realize that you really are family. Today we lost someone in our family.
Gene was a great player. He was an All-Pro. He was a Hall of Famer. If you look at the history of the NFL you’re going to find out that he was one of the most influential people that the league has known. He did so much, not only for the players, but also for the owners, the teams, and the game of pro football. In that, he is obviously going to be missed. He was respected by everyone, because as a player he was a tough guy, and as the union head he was a tough guy. But he was also smart, and he could compromise, and he could make things happen. This is deeper than head of the union passing away, and it’s deeper than an ex-player. This is missing someone that is and was like family. It’s a tough day for all of us.
Former NFL-Commissioner Paul Tagliabue
Few people in the history of the National Football League have played the game as well as Gene and then had another career in football with so much positive impact on the structure and competitiveness of the entire league as Gene.
In both careers, if you hit him in the head, he could hit you back twice as hard –but he didn’t always do so. He was very tough but also a good listener. He never lost sight of the interests of the game and the big picture. Our hearts are with Terri, his children and his family.
Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis
In his position representing the players, I felt like Gene was always very frank and fair when he came in and visited the club. He wouldn’t come here to visit without wanting to sit down and talk for 15 minutes to see how our players were doing and what else was going on. How were they doing? How was I doing? A time didn’t go by when he didn’t do that. And I appreciated that. It’s a big loss for the NFL community.
Gene Upshaw was a friend and someone I will miss dearly.Few men have made more contributions to the National Football League. I enjoyed working with Gene. He brought all of the competitive qualities of a Hall of Fame offensive lineman to the negotiating table. He cared about so many people, and he loved the game.
All of the young men who play in the NFL today owe a great debt to Gene, and all of us who enjoy the success of the NFL will be forever indebted to Gene.
Kansas City Chies Statement – President Carl Peterson
Gene Upshaw was the consummate professional in every way. On the football field, he was a true competitor and we had the pleasure of competing against him on numerous occasions, including Super Bowl XV when I was with the Philadelphia Eagles. I had the privilege of serving with Gene on several boards and committees, most notably the NFL Europe League Working Executives Committee and the NFL Youth Football Funding Board.
In his role with the National Football League Players Association, Gene had the tremendous ability to get things done. He was steadfast in his convictions, but could always see the viewpoint of the other side. He was a great contributor to both the NFL and the NFLPA long after his Hall of Fame career as a player had concluded. His many contributions will always be remembered. His efforts have benefitted thousands of players privileged to play in the NFL over the past 25 years. On behalf of the entire Kansas City Chiefs organization, we will miss Gene Upshaw.
Head Coach Herm Edwards
It’s a very sad day. I told my players that this was a guy who came into the league as a player and became a Hall of Fame player. He’s the only player in NFL history to play in three different Super Bowls during three different decades; the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. He was a great, visionary guy for the league and for the players‘ rights and benefits.
I can remember we were sitting at the Warrick Hotel in ’82, before the players went on strike out there in New York. Gene sat at the table with us. We were all talking about, getting a piece of the pie, open the books up, let the players see the owners‘ books. He took off his Players Association hat and said, ‚I’m going to do what’s right for the players, we have to make this a strong union.‘ Well, he was right. He did a lot of things for players and for ownership to unify our union. It goes way back, a lot of people don’t know that. He was about the National Football League. He was about the integrity of the league. He was about how the players handled their job on a professional football field.
And he loved the game. There’s no doubt about it. He did everything in his power to make sure that the players understood that. This is an important league, there’s a little fraternity of players, and you’ve got to respect that. So, with that said, it’s going to be a big loss. No one’s ever going to fill his shoes. They’ll have another guy to represent the players and all that. He did a lot, taught me a lot as a young player and he’s going to be missed. I played against him in the Super Bowl, played against him a couple times. He was a heckuva of a football player. He was a Raider, that’s for sure, he was a true Raider. He will be missed.