CALIFORNIA magazine, the UC Berkeley alumni publication, has a feature on legendary former Vikings QB, Joe Kapp, who, in 1974, sued the NFL for anti-trust violations and won, only to be denied damages in the subsequent jury trial. As one historian of the sport says of him, "Kapp was a rebel in a sport that didn't have many at the time." 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."
Incidentally, CALIFORNIA also featured Kapp's fellow Cal alum and former Viking offensive lineman Ed White. See: "Being Big Ed."