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Immediately after the public announcement that the lockout had ended, the leaders of the National Football League Players Association stopped to honor one of their greatest leaders, John Mackey, and his wife Sylvia.
On July 25, the day the longest work stoppage in NFL history ended, Executive Director of the NFLPA, DeMaurice Smith and players, past and present, gathered in a conference room at their headquarters to remember Mackey’s sacrifices and to sign the commemorative John Mackey jersey they had commissioned. ProPlayerInsiders was there to share this very special moment.
That jersey was presented today to Sylvia by Smith at the Mackey memorial service in Baltimore where he spoke.
“John, with you having ‘done all’, on the day the Collective Bargaining Agreement was voted upon and approved, the Executive Committee of the NFL Players signed two Baltimore Colt jerseys we had specially commissioned on the day we learned of your passing into immortality. It marks a sacred bond between all players and a man who remains one of our Leaders.
One is to you, the other will hang in our office and I am proud to say, becomes the symbol of the new John Mackey Leadership Forum between the NFL Players Association and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. It is from you John that we will teach the importance of loyalty.
It is from John that we will instill the will to fight for what is right as a team. It is from John that all will learn the necessity of sacrifice. But most of all, it is from John that we must embrace what love means in the game and business of this great sport. Our mission is John’s Mission, to inspire and train our leaders in both our history and our will; and to forever serve those who came before us and those who will certainly come afterwards. The only casualty of peace is forgetting both how and who achieved it.”
The former Baltimore Colt and Hall of Famer passed away on July 6 after a 10-year struggle with frontotemporal dementia. His wife, Sylvia who has been a constant advocate for all NFL players told the Baltimore Sun that she delayed his service until after there was labor peace in football. “We wanted [the lockout] to be settled, and people to be settled. We also wanted time to pass, and for this to be a celebration, not a sorrowful occasion.”
The blue and white jersey which bears Mackey’s name, and his famous #88 was signed by Smith and members of the NFLPA executive committee including: Charlie Batch, Cornelius Bennett, Drew Brees, Brian Dawkins, Jim McFarland, Sean Morey and Brian Waters.
Mackey’s brother Rev. Elijah Mackey along with one of his former teammates, Rev. Joe Ehrmann led the service. Ehrmann, is a former Colt defensive tackle who, like Mackey, played at Syracuse.
Others who were scheduled to speak include Bill Curry, onetime Colt who succeeded Mackey as NFLPA president in 1973; Floyd Little, a Hall of Fame running back from Syracuse and a longtime friend of Mackey; Ed Garvey, executive director of the players’ union during Mackey’s tenure; Kevin Mackey, son of the Hall of Famer and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
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