Ex-NFLPA head Ed Garvey dead at 76

The Sports Xchange
Former NFLPA executive director Ed Garvey. (NFLPA/Instagram)
Former NFLPA executive director Ed Garvey. (NFLPA/Instagram)

Ed Garvey, who was the NFL Players Association's first executive director, died Wednesday. He was 76.

Garvey died at a nursing home in Verona, Wis., after a battle with Parkinson's disease, the Capital Times reported.


Garvey, who graduated from Wisconsin Law School in 1969, was the players' union counsel and executive director from 1971 to 1983. He was a labor lawyer for a Minneapolis firm representing the NFLPA, working alongside union president John Mackey.

Garvey led the players through two strikes in 1974 and 1982. The 1982 walkout resulted in the season being shortened from 16 to nine games.

Garvey's stint as executive director also saw the union win a lawsuit invalidating the "Rozelle Rule," which limited players' ability to move to other teams by giving then-commissioner Pete Rozelle the right to assign compensation to any team losing a free agent. But the court ruling did not eliminate the compensatory element, instead writing the formula for determining it into the collective bargaining agreement rather than a ruling by the commissioner.

The NFLPA did not achieve free agency until 1993, after the owners granted the players the move in exchange for a salary cap.


Garvey returned to Madison, Wis., in 1983 as assistant to then-Attorney General Bronson La Follette, before opening a private practice as a labor attorney.

Garvey ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat in the U.S. Senate race against incumbent Republican Sen. Robert Kasten in 1986, and lost to incumbent Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1998.

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