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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pro sports union bosses looking out for #1

In 1955, then Teamsters union leader Jimmy Hoffa, easily the most infamous of all labor bosses, reported an income of $30,000. Of course, he also picked up part ownership in a brewery, a trotting track and a few summer camps, to name a few of his side jobs. But Hoffa was poverty-stricken compared to NFL Players Association boss Gene Upshaw.

According to the Sports Business Journal, Upshaw, who has been vilified by former players angry over what they call a disability system more interested in denying claims than helping the needy, earned a whopping $6.7 million in the year ending Feb. 28, 2007.

Upshaw, who earned $4.3 million in salary and bonuses from the NFLPA and a $2.4 million bonus through the licensing unit Players Inc., according to the NFLPA's annual report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, is the highest paid union chief in pro sports.

According to SBJ, the increased compensation came as the union negotiated a player-friendly labor deal with team owners.

"I'm sure he's laughing all the way to the bank," said Bruce Laird, a former Colts player who leads an activist NFL retiree group in Baltimore. "But the fact remains that the system for partial and permanent disability is absolutely flawed."

The NFLPA and Upshaw, whose pay is set by a 10-player committee, have recently been under pressure from retired players on issues ranging from pensions and disability benefits to licensing income.

During the same time period, SBJ reported, former Players Inc. president Doug Allen earned $1.9 million, and his wife, former Players Inc. COO Pat Allen, was paid $633,534.

"I'd love to extend an invitation to Mr. Upshaw to come to my house and see how other guys live," said Brian DeMarco, the former Jacksonville and Cincinnati lineman who suffered extensive back and leg injuries during his NFL career. His family has been homeless three times in the last four years because of medical bills from football injuries.

"Upshaw owes his entire life to football," DeMarco says of the Hall of Famer, "and now he's stepping away from the guys he sweat with and bled with."

Upshaw's pay dwarfed that of the other union heads, including Major League Baseball Players Association chief Donald Fehr, who earned $1 million, and NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter, who made $2.1million in the 12 months ending on June 30, 2006.

Neither of those unions has a licensing subsidiary comparable to Players Inc.

Former NHL Players Association executive director Ted Saskin was reportedly paid a salary of about $2.1 million before being fired in May.

Upshaw's salary even dwarfs that of his counterpart in management, Roger Goodell, who signed a five-year deal last year for a reported $4 million per year, although he lags far behind baseball's boss, Bud Selig, who earned a reported $14.5 million in 2006.

NBA chief David Stern was once the highest-paid commissioner: In 1990, the New York Times reported that Stern earned $3.5 million per year. By 2003, he was making $8 million a year.

(nydailynews.com)