I celebrated my 60th Birthday on October 13th this year, so I was literally in diapers when the Player’s Union came into existence. Twenty-three years later, I would begin my NFL career and become part of an exclusive brotherhood of men who got paid to play a game they loved.
Unfortunately, the game - and those who owned it – didn’t really love us in return. I often hear friends and fans jokingly tell me I was born too early…. and then ask me if I would like to be playing today and making the kind of money the current players are earning. Obviously no one can do anything about when they were born, but asking me if I would like to make an average starter salary of just over $2 million a year, is like asking me if I would like to breath. For the record, the average salary for the top 100 players in the NFL is $11.6 million and the least they can pay a player is $450,000.
It doesn't hurt to remind everyone that it wasn't always like this. I don’t have to tell most of you how hard it was to build and organize the union in the early years. And many of you know what it was like like to go on strike to fight for fair wages, safer playing conditions and better benefits.
“When it’s all said and done, I hope we can all say we gave our all; We did what was fair; We did what was right; And it was worth it, because everyone before you had been willing to sacrifice. We can’t be any different.” – Gene Upshaw, Executive Director of the NFLPA speaking to active players
Those were the final words delivered in the NFLPA’s video commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the NFL Players Association. The video is very inspirational and I encourage everyone to watch it. I think it should be mandatory viewing for the current players, because they need to see how far the union has come and why their wages, playing conditions and benefits are so good.
The video will serve as a great reminder to all the current players when they begin the process of negotiating a new collective bargain agreement just a few years from now. We were willing to sacrifice for them and therefore they must be willing to sacrifice for us.
The NFLPA is 60 years old and getting stronger, but so are the former NFL players that have come together and united on many different issues. We are 20,000 strong…… and we still have a voice!