Tagliabue on “war” and labor peace

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue wrote a letter to the editor in today’s New York Times business section to correct a mischaracterization in an article in last Sunday regarding former NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw’s business dealings with the league and his contributions to labor peace.

“I take issue with a description of the role of Gene Upshaw (left), the former head of the players’ union, in the labor movement and with the article’s characterization of his relationship with N.F.L. management,” wrote Tagliabue, who served as Commissioner for 17 years before retiring in September 2006.

“Mr. Upshaw served for two decades on the executive council of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., often drawing on the position in securing the interests of N.F.L. players. And far from having a backslapping, ‘easy relationship,’ Mr. Upshaw and I (and others in the N.F.L.) had a constructive relationship that grew out of one imperative that is absent today: We both had two decades of deep experience as adversaries in a highly destructive labor-management ‘war.’

“Mr. Upshaw was in the picket lines and other trenches when many people now involved on the union’s side were in high school or younger. Recall the 1982 players’ strike, as well as the 1987 strike that resulted in three ‘replacement’ games.

“Like others who have experienced a war’s destruction firsthand,” Tagliabue concluded. “Mr. Upshaw and I (and others) came to see the value of peace. An extraordinary game, coupled with reasonable revenue and cost-sharing, soon created the means to achieve it.”

For the complete letter, click here.

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