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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

NFLPA's Richard Berthelesen: Gene Upshaw is Underpaid - Profootballtalk.com

I personally think Gene Upshaw's doing a great job and has managed to stay out of court and caused the players to get more money in the last CBA. But Gene's got his detrators...


Last month, we reported that NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw made at least $6.6 million in the year ending February 28, 2007.

Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal recently confirmed this report, and obtained a quote from NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelesen defending the exorbitant salary and bonus package paid to Upshaw.

"If anything he is underpaid," Berthelsen said. "He is paid out of the revenues generated by active players."

As Kaplan notes, it's possible that Upshaw earned even more from Players, Inc., the licensing arm of the NFLPA that generates millions from the use of player names and likenesses for trading cards, video games, and related products.

In our view, Berthelsen's comment indicates that Upshaw's wages are tied directly to the financial package that the NFL has given to the players, and therefore that these windfalls will continue beyond February 28, 2007.

But should they? Is it fair and just for the head of a union to be paid based on the total revenue that the union is generating for its members, or should the head of the union be given a salary that reflects the dynamics of the market for persons with the abilities and skills that Upshaw is utilizing?

We think the latter is the more appropriate formula. If Upshaw won't do the job for less than $6.7 million per year, then the PLAYERS who comprise the union should search for a competent executive who'd be thrilled to have the position in return for a lot less money.

We also are curious as to whether the rank-and-file are given full information as to what Upshaw makes. Berthelsen says that the wages are determined by a 10-member committee. But who beyond that committee is asked their opinion on whether Upshaw is receiving more than his fair share?

Berthelsen says that the committee takes into account the salary paid to the NFL Commissioner. But why should the wages that the 32 billionaires who own NFL teams chose to pay to the guy who is managing their league have any relevance to the money paid to Upshaw?

If the formula used to pay Upshaw is going to continue to take into account the revenues generated by active players, and thus will continue to generate pay in excess of $6 million per year, how will the union go about replacing Upshaw? Will current NFLPA president Troy Vincent get the opportunity to make more per year on average than he ever earned on the field simply because he is in the right place at the right time? Or will the union conduct a nationwide search for the best and most competent person that $6.7 million per year can buy?

Regardless of any other issue that currently is dogging the union, we believe that the pay given to Upshaw is shameful, and that it confirms (in our opinion) the notion that the players are in many cases being manipulated by the power structure that Upshaw has put in place to agree with anything that the union's administration presents to them.

And the fact that the retired players who currently are flailing clumsily at Upshaw over disability benefits have yet to utter a peep about Upshaw's pay tells us that the cause being championed by folks like Mike Ditka and Joe DeLamielleure is going nowhere, fast.

It also tells us that real change will be effected only if and when current players display off of the field the same courage that they demonstrate every time they march onto it.

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