When the 1987 players strike first took form, Karl Mecklenburg, who served as the Denver Broncos alternate Player Rep, figured he would have a secondary role in the work stoppage. But when Denver’s main Player Rep, Ricky Hunley, was waived and later signed with Arizona at the start of the strike, Mecklenburg was thrust onto the front line.
Known for his gritty play during a 12-year career with the Broncos, Mecklenburg did not shy away from his elevated responsibility to the players and union. In serving as a chief liaison for the Broncos and NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw, Mecklenburg informed the public through the media while organizing team picket lines.
The thankless tasks that the All-Pro linebacker carried out during the strike left him unpopular among fans, many of whom booed him after the players returned to the field following the 24-day strike. But Mecklenburg’s fortitude did not go unnoticed by his fellow players, who ultimately reaped the benefits of free agency and a guaranteed share of club and league revenues.
Mecklenburg, who later served on the NFLPA’s Executive Committee, also advocated for retired players, pushing the union to create the type of health benefits that are now realized through resources like The Trust.