CALIFORNIA magazine, the UC Berkeley alumni publication, has a feature on Joe Kapp, who was effectively banished from the NFL after refusing to sign a standard player's contract at the finish of the 1970 season--his lone year with the Pats, and a somewhat disastrous one at that. He later sued the NFL for anti-trust violations and won, only to be denied damages in the subsequent jury trial.
It's ancient history, of course, but may be of interest to fans who remember the man once hailed in Boston papers as the "Mexican Messiah." Here's how the article begins:
Joe Kapp is finally ready to get it all down on paper—the whole thing, from his hardscrabble upbringing in Salinas to his heyday in the pros; from his first appearance in Memorial Stadium in 1956 to his return, 25 years later, as the head coach at his alma mater. Sitting down to talk on a recent summer day, the old quarterback patted his shoulder bag, which contained an iPad equipped with voice recognition software. Every day, he says, he tries to dictate a little more of his life’s story.
It hasn’t been easy. At 73, Kapp is still a live wire—spry, with a wicked sense of humor—but the struggle to remember has become hard, almost physical, work for him. Straining to retrieve an errant memory, he sometimes grimaces with the effort. An observer can’t help but be reminded of the younger Kapp, the famously hardnosed competitor, gritting his teeth behind the single horizontal bar of his facemask.
"My only problem is I can’t count to ten anymore," Kapp responds when asked how he’s doing. "But hell, that’s the story with all us old guys."
In July, when the NFL lockout was still in effect, I asked Kapp to discuss a particular chapter in his life’s story; namely, his eight-year legal battle with the NFL. Few fans will remember (nor likely cared much at the time) but Joseph R. Kapp v. the National Football League (1974) is one of the landmark cases in the ongoing struggle between professional sports club owners and their athletes—the owners and the owned.
For the rest, see: "The Free Agent."