Ed Garvey, who served as the union's first executive director, passed away Wednesday at the age of 76. Here are the NFLPA's statements on one of the pioneering figures in our 60-year history:


"It is with deep sadness that I share the passing of Ed Garvey, former Executive Director of the NFLPA.  Ed literally built us into a Union, thanks to his brilliance and loyalty to the players, and no one will ever forget his biting and effective wit. I brought Ed back as a consultant in 2009 since he was the only living former Executive Director at the time. I can say that both he and Marvin Miller were the best teachers of a student who needed a crash course in the history of sports labor and the inevitable clashes with management.  Ed was a friend to all of us and we will miss him."

--DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director, NFLPA

“Since being elected President of the NFL Players Association, I am always reminded of a specific quote: ‘We stand on the shoulders of giants,'.  One of those 'giants' was Ed Garvey, the first executive director of our great union. Ed's relentless work helped set the foundation for the numerous benefits and breakthroughs we as players have experienced, especially during these latter parts of our 60-year history. I am saddened to hear about his passing, but I am confident that his strong legacy will continue to guide the work of our players union.”

--Eric Winston, President of the NFLPA & Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman



Several people who worked closely with Ed both during and after his time at the NFLPA offered their words of appreciation and admiration for the union’s first executive director.


Ed Garvey led the NFLPA through the very mean and lean years.  He inspired us through his passion and relentless work for basic rights for NFL Players.  His sharp wit and even sharper wisdom laid the groundwork for this great union.

--Miki Yaras-Davis, Director of Benefits, NFLPA


The players owe a debt of gratitude to Ed Garvey for forging a path that led to free agency and a strong union.  He was a brilliant strategist and way ahead of his time, with ideas that often resulted in him being labeled a "radical."  His passion and sense of humor made it a privilege and a pleasure to work for him.  I am saddened by his passing and will always cherish the memories of my early years at the NFLPA as his colleague and friend.

--Pat Allen, former president of Players Inc.


We are so saddened to hear of Ed’s passing.  He was a great mentor and great friend.  All NFL players--past, present, and future--owe him gratitude for what he accomplished not only as the NFLPA Executive Director from 1971 to 1983 but also as a trustee in the player pension plan for ten years thereafter.  More than anyone in our history, Ed educated the players on NFL economics and how important the players were to the league’s success. And he personified the courage it took to stand up for what was right, including the free agency rights and the guaranteed percentage of gross revenues that players enjoy today.  For Ed, what was “right” also included using the players’ popularity to help others who weren’t as fortunate—as with the “Unions for Youth” Camps and the NFL Player Job Corps program he started in the early 80’s.  Ed would often say that “the greatest sin in life is not to utilize your talents to help others.”  He used his considerable talents to help so many others, and we will forever honor his memory. 

--Richard Bethelsen, former General Counsel and Executive Director, NFLPA


Ed Garvey was one of the funniest and smartest people in sports, a great combination that sometimes got him into trouble.  He was also a champion for NFL players early on when it really mattered and was especially hard work.  He created the modern NFLPA by opening the headquarters in Washington and assembling a remarkable professional staff who achieved amazing things with very limited resources.  Ed laid the groundwork for NFL player free agency and for NFL players to receive their fair share of the revenues they produce.  Every NFL player since, right up to today, owes Ed Garvey a huge debt of gratitude.  He was deservedly the first inductee into the new NFLPA Hall of Fame.  His wit and brilliance will be missed.

--Doug Allen, former players and Assistant Executive Director, NFL Players Association


Ed was a man with a vision, a leader who didn’t mind challenging the status quo for the benefit of all players.  One thing about Ed is that was consistent with everything he did. A visionary who will be missed.

--Brig Owens, former player and Assistant Executive Director, NFL Players Association


Ed was a leader before his time.  He epitomized what leadership meant to our players at a very challenging time during our fight with league.  He led with a strong hand, but negotiated with savvy skills.

--Clark Gaines, former player and Assistant Executive Director, NFLPA


Ed was a friend, a client, and a visionary leader of men. Long before the 56 day NFL strike in 1982, Ed assembled the largest gathering ever of professional athletes in Albuquerque in March of that year to prepare them for the ordeal, and, from that foundation, the players held firm until the contract was reached. Ed believed that "the players were the game," that they were not chattel (property of the owners), and that they were entitled to a piece of the pie their efforts created.

The Players didn't win the right to a "percentage of the gross" until 1993, but the 1982 contract established health and safety guarantees that are now basic in all professional sports, put in place a system of agent regulation that did not previously exist, and a level of transparency that is essential to fairness in individual salary negotiations. And, when all was said and done, the players as a group were made whole for their losses despite missing half a Season of work.

Through it all, in the darkest and most tense moments, Ed provided a steady hand and comedic relief that held the players together. He was a GIANT.

--Chip Yablonski, former NFLPA outside counsel


The honor of knowing Ed Garvey was in part the honor of knowing someone truly intrepid and truly indefatigable. Working with Ed on behalf of the NFLPA was to see those traits make the organization a substantial force representing its members: never setting foot on the field, his victories continue of benefit to every NFL player.  Upon his loss, we honor that legacy.

--Tom Condon, former player and past NFLPA president


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