NFL Union Lawyer Richard Berthelsen to Retire After 40 Years

Richard Berthelsen, the lead attorney for the National Football League player’s union, will retire on May 15, his 40th anniversary with the organization.

Berthelsen, 67, joined the union as a lawyer in 1972 and became general counsel in 1983. He was directly involved in negotiating and writing four labor agreements and five contract extensions, and was the union’s acting executive director after Gene Upshaw died in August 2008.

“Professional football would not be what it is today without Richard Berthelsen,” said DeMaurice Smith, the current union chief. “He has been involved in protecting and advancing player rights for four decades, and in that time, he has been steadfast in his devotion to our membership.”

Berthelsen, who will become a consultant with the union, also represented NFL players in hundreds of grievance arbitrations, served as the principal adviser to players and agents on contract negotiations, established the union’s agent regulation system and has overseen the salary cap and agent administration.

In addition to his work with the NFL, he was general counsel to the Major Indoor Soccer League union, the North American Soccer League union and the United States Football League union at various times.

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at

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