Ed Garvey

American lawyer, labor leader, NFLPA executive director

Edward R. "Ed" Garvey (April 18, 1940 – February 22, 2017) was an American lawyer, politician and progressive activist.

Ed Garvey
Personal details
Born(1940-04-18)April 18, 1940
Burlington, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedFebruary 22, 2017(2017-02-22) (aged 76)
Verona, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materUniversity of Wisconsin–Madison

Early lifeEdit

Garvey was born in Burlington, Wisconsin. He studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Legal careerEdit

Garvey worked for the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), the labor organization representing the professional American football players in the National Football League (NFL). In 1970 Garvey was assigned to counsel union president John Mackey regarding negotiations on a new four year contract with the league's owners.

Garvey was later offered the position of executive director in the now-certified NFLPA in 1971.[1]

Garvey served as its executive director until 1983, through two strikes (in 1974 and 1982) and invoking antitrust legislation in his many court battles with the league.

Garvey directed the NFLPA though a series of court battles that led, in 1975, to the ruling in Mackey v. NFL that antitrust laws applied to the NFL's restrictions on player movement.

In 1976, armed with leverage regarding player movement from team to team, Garvey and the union won major concessions from the owners. Garvey's negotiations with the league exchanged the players' threat of pursuing a system of unfettered free agency for an improved package of player benefits.[2]

Failed political careerEdit

In 1986, Garvey ran for the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin, losing to Republican incumbent Bob Kasten by a small margin[3] In an unsuccessful bid for Wisconsin governor in 1998 against three-term incumbent Tommy G. Thompson, Garvey sought to highlight campaign finance reform and limited contributions to his campaign to a fixed amount per donor. Thompson won by a wide margin.


Garvey died on February 22, 2017 at his lake home in Verona, Wisconsin, aged 76.[4]


  1. Heidi Hollanddate=October 11, 1982. "Owners Fume and Fans Despair, but Lawyer Ed Garvey Won't Tell the NFL Players to Punt". People Magazine. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  2. Robert H. Boyle (February 1, 1982). "This is the controversial proposal of Ed Garvey and the NFL players' union as contract talks approach". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  3. Solovy, Stephen (March 7, 1989). "Wisconsin Voters". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  4. Sandomir, Richard (2017-02-22). "Ed Garvey, Leader of N.F.L. Players' Union, Dies at 76". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-02-24.