When pro football players formed a union to stand up against the NFL for their own interests, they chose lawyer Ed Garvey as their Executive Director. The NFL Players Association (NFLPA), would take on the NFL over player contracts, collective bargaining agreements, and antitrust suits. It lobbied for players’ free agency, contract rights, and impartial arbitration of disciplinary disputes. Garvey navigated strikes, lockouts, scabs, stooges, lies, as well as the sports media complex—to maintain players’ dignity. According to the league, the players were to take what they were given and “never ask why.”
In Never Ask “Why,” journalist Chuck Cascio presents the late Garvey’s rich account of the early years of the NFLPA, taking readers among the players as they held the league accountable to play fair. Learning from their mistakes, the NFLPA would succeed in curbing commissioner Pete Rozelle’s disciplinary power and striking down the Rozelle Rule’s absolute control over free agency.
Garvey tells the intimate stories of how pro football players, rivals on the field, rallied together to stand up for themselves. He worked tirelessly to change a system that exploited players and even controlled the media. In the end, Garvey shows how the NFLPA transformed the state of pro sports leagues today and how, even still, they work to keep down the players on whose backs they profit.
Ed Garvey (1940-2017) was a lifelong activist for civil and labor rights. He was an associate at the labor law firm of Lindquist & Vennum in Minneapolis, where he helped organize the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) to lead the persistent fight for players’ rights. He became the NFLPA’s first executive director in 1971, a position he held until 1983 after which he was Deputy Attorney General for Wisconsin. As a private practice lawyer, he engaged in a range of political reform initiatives.
Chuck Cascio is an award-winning freelance writer, author, and educator whose work has appeared in numerous publications. He received a Virginia Press Association Award for sportswriting, and a Distinguished Teacher Award in the Presidential Scholars Program. He is the author of the novel, The Fire Escape Belongs in Brooklyn, a finalist for the National Indie Excellence Award. He lives in the Washington, DC, area with his wife, Faye. Visit him online at https://www.chuckcascioauthor.com/.