Ed Garvey

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Ed Garvey
Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association
In office
1971 – June 1983
Preceded byMalcolm Kennedy Jr.
Succeeded byGene Upshaw
Personal details
Edward Robert Garvey

(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
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Branch/serviceUnited States Army

Edward Robert Garvey (April 18, 1940 – February 22, 2017) was an American lawyer, activist, and Democratic politician from Wisconsin. He was executive director of the National Football League Players Association (player's union) from 1971 to 1983. He also ran unsuccessfully for United States Senate (1986 & 1988) and Governor of Wisconsin (1998). Later in life he organized the first "Fighting Bob Fest", an annual gathering of progressive activists in Wisconsin.


Garvey graduated from the University of Wisconsin (now the University of Wisconsin–Madison) and spent two years in the U.S. Army; he then returned to Madison and entered the University of Wisconsin Law School, where he earned a law degree.[1]

Law and union work[edit]

Garvey at the 2011 Fighting Bob Fest

Soon after graduation, Garvey joined Lindquist & Vennum, a Minneapolis law firm. The firm worked for the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), the labor organization representing the professional American football players in the National Football League (NFL), and 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.[2]

Garvey served as its executive director until 1983, through two strikes (in 1974 and 1982) and frequently 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.[3]

The NFLPA became recognized by the owners as a full-fledged National Labor Relations Board union, and damages totaling $13.65 million were awarded to past and present players for antitrust violations against them.[4]

After leaving the NFLPA[edit]

After leaving the NFLPA, Garvey served as deputy attorney general in Wisconsin under Bronson La Follette, serving as the number-two official in the Wisconsin Department of Justice and specializing in environmental issues. Garvey also became a prominent leader with Wisconsin labor groups, particularly the Paperworkers Union (now United Steelworkers) in contract disputes with International Paper.

He organized the Fighting Bob Fest, named for Robert M. La Follette[5]

Political career[edit]

In 1986, Garvey ran for the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin, losing to Republican incumbent Bob Kasten by a small margin after a very bitter election.[6] In an unsuccessful bid for Wisconsin governor in 1998 against three-term incumbent Tommy 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 was the editor and publisher of the political website FightingBob.com, which focused on Wisconsin and national issues from a progressive perspective. He regularly appeared on the local NPR national public radio affiliate WHAD to provide a progressive viewpoint on a variety of topics.


Garvey died of complications from Parkinson's disease at a nursing home in Verona, Wisconsin.[7]

Electoral history[edit]

U.S. Senate (1986)[edit]

United States Senate Election in Wisconsin, 1986[8]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Primary, September 9, 1986
Democratic Edward R. Garvey 126,408 47.60%
Democratic Matthew J. Flynn 101,777 38.33%
Democratic Gary R. George 29,485 11.10%
Democratic Roman R. Blenski 7,890 2.97%
Plurality 24,631 9.28%
Total votes 265,560 100.0%
General Election, November 4, 1986
Republican Robert W. Kasten (inc) 754,473 50.91%
Democratic Edward R. Garvey 702,963 47.44%
Independent Peter Y. Taylor 19,266 1.30%
Socialist Workers Margo Storsteen 2,926 0.20%
Independent Eugene A. Hem 2,234 0.15%
Plurality 51,510 3.48%
Total votes 1,481,862 100.0%
Republican hold

U.S. Senate (1988)[edit]

United States Senate Election in Wisconsin, 1988[9]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Primary, September 13, 1988
Democratic Herb Kohl 249,226 46.76%
Democratic Tony Earl 203,479 38.18%
Democratic Edward R. Garvey 55,225 10.36%
Democratic Doug La Follette 19,819 3.72%
Democratic Edmond C. Hou-Seye 5,040 0.95%
Scattering 215 0.04%
Plurality 45,747 8.58%
Total votes 533,004 100.0%

Wisconsin Governor (1998)[edit]

Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election, 1998[10]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Primary, September 8, 1998
Democratic Edward R. Garvey 175,082 79.98%
Democratic Gary R. George 43,830 20.02%
Plurality 131,252 59.96%
Total votes 218,912 100.0% +79.56%
General Election, November 3, 1998
Republican Tommy Thompson (inc)
& Scott McCallum (inc)
1,047,716 59.66% -7.56pp
Democratic Edward R. Garvey
& Barbara Lawton
679,553 38.70% +7.82pp
Libertarian Jim Mueller
& James Dean
11,071 0.63% -0.11pp
U.S. Taxpayers Edward J. Frami
& Thomas R. Rivers
10,269 0.58% -0.00pp
Independent Mike Mangan 4,985 0.28%
Independent A-ja-mu Muhammad
& Vida Harley Bridges
1,604 0.09%
Green Jeffrey L. Smith
& R. Smith
14 0.00%
Scattering 802 0.05% +0.00pp
Plurality 368,163 20.97% -15.39pp
Total votes 1,756,014 100.0% +12.29%
Republican hold


  1. ^ Heidi Holland (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. ^ Heidi Holland (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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ John Clayton (March 28, 2010). "Packers' Murphy comes full circle: Once considered a radical, team president is now trying to settle NFL's labor problems". sports.espn.go.com. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Solovy, Stephen (March 7, 1989). "Wisconsin Voters". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  7. ^ Longtime political activist Ed Garvey has died
  8. ^ Theobald, H. Rupert; Barish, Lawrence S., eds. (1987). "Elections in Wisconsin". State of Wisconsin Blue Book 1987–1988 (Report). Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. p. 881, 887. Retrieved December 3, 2023.
  9. ^ Barish, Lawrence S.; Theobald, H. Rupert, eds. (1989). "Elections in Wisconsin". State of Wisconsin Blue Book 1989–1990 (Report). Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. p. 904. Retrieved December 3, 2023.
  10. ^ Barish, Lawrence S.; Meloy, Patricia E., eds. (1999). "Elections in Wisconsin". State of Wisconsin Blue Book 1999–2000 (Report). Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. p. 885, 887. Retrieved December 1, 2023.


External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Wisconsin
(Class 3)

Succeeded by
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by