from Daniel Kaplan at Sports Business Journal
NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw earned at least $6.7 million in compensation in the year ended Feb. 28, 2007, according to the union’s annual report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. That amount was more than double the prior year’s pay for Upshaw, who ranks consistently as sports’ highest-paid union chief.
NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw The increased compensation came as the union negotiated a player-friendly labor deal with team owners. At the same time, however, the union and the executive director personally have been undertremendous public fire from retired players on issues ranging from pensions and disability benefits to licensing income.
The timing of this story could not be worse for Gene Upshaw and the NFLPA, which is the target of a class-action lawsuit for failing to pay benefits to retired players. According to Forbes, only 317 out of more than 10,000 eligible players are getting disability payments out of their own fund. (Read my two previous posts on this lawsuit.)
But the NFLPA apparently has the funds to pay their employees. According to the Sports Business Journal, Upshaw is the highest-paid union chief in sports. Billy Hunter, the National Basketball Players Association executive director, earned $2.1 million in the 12 months ended June 30, 2006. MLBPA boss Donald Fehr takes in $1 million salary.
Furthermore, in a recent amendment to their lawsuit, the retired NFL players allege that, “Players Inc. has ... diverted millions of dollars from Players Inc. to the NFLPA in order to support the overhead, substantial salaries and perquisites of NFLPA management and employees.”
Richard Berthelsen, the NFLPA’s general counsel, had this to say about Upshaw's salary, “If anything, he is underpaid."