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The battle is joined
Gwilym S. Brown
March 18, 1974
A brash young lawyer named Ed Garvey leads the players' revolt
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March 18, 1974

The Battle Is Joined

A brash young lawyer named Ed Garvey leads the players' revolt

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"He's doing a good job for the players," Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers has admitted. "He's a very able young man."

To charges that the players, already well paid, are being greedy, Garvey says, "Dammit, getting a fair share of the pie certainly has nothing to do with greed." He claims that every club in the NFL showed a pre-tax profit last year and that the average per team was slightly more than $2 million. Gross revenues, he says, grew from $102 million in 1969 to $178 million in 1973, but the players' share dropped from 37% to 25%. The NFL Management Council retorts that such figures are grossly inaccurate.

"What few people realize," Garvey says, "is that the average pro football career—the prime earning period—lasts less than five years. Even in that short span players incur crippling and permanent injuries, even death." An example of injury is provided by the current president of the NFLPA, Bill Curry, whose leg was badly broken last fall. To deepen the irony, Curry was injured on artifical turf, which the association generally deplores.

Garvey claims the most puzzling problem for him to deal with is the role of Commissioner Pete Rozelle. "Who is Pete Rozelle?" he asks. "Is he the Neutral Guardian of the Sport, as the public thinks, and as the owners would be pleased to have us think? Or is he, as the players think, a man with quasi-governmental powers, who is the primary spokesman for the owners in their effort to preserve the present system?"

Garvey insists he is not out to destroy Rozelle or the owners. "I will be happy," he says, "if the owners and Rozelle finally come to the conclusion that they are conducting a fully mature American business, such as the automobile industry, or computers, or publishing or what have you; that they can't treat players like children, or defeat the Players Association or discredit its leadership."

Garvey claims there is a relentless public and private name-calling campaign by the club owners. "They criticize me because I've never played pro football," he says. "Which is pretty ridiculous," says John Mackey, now retired as a player and as NFLPA president. "How much football did Pete Rozelle or Tex Schramm ever play?"

Garvey says, "The league clipping service sent out an article on me that appeared in something called The Hollywood Sun-Tattler. It was wildly distorted, an interview that had me insulting everyone in pro football: owners, general managers, coaches, players. Even some of the players reps, who should have known better, were upset with me.

"The owners tell player reps, 'You are letting this man manipulate you.' " Alan Page of the Vikings says, "After our request for a survey of artificial turf received publicity, Jim Finks [the Viking general manager] called me in and said, 'Is this really the way you fellows feel? You should speak for yourselves. Don't let Ed Garvey do the talking.' "

"My loyalty to the American way of life is questioned," says Garvey, with mock indignation. "Three or four people implied I might be a Communist."

Garvey is already banned from all NFL press boxes and on game days, from all locker rooms. And there has been a persistent turnover among player representatives, the men Garvey must deal with. They are cut, waived, traded, sold—which means new player representatives who require orientation.

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