As a former player, NFLPA player rep and union staff member, Clark Gaines’ constant support of the NFLPA and its members forged the path for many who came after him. His involvement with the NFLPA began as an alternate player rep for the New York Jets in 1979, just a few years after he signed with the club. In his final year in the NFL, the former Wake Forest University running back continued his fight for players’ rights as an active member of the 1982 strike and as a strong supporter of the Percentage of Gross Revenue Plan, which would ensure the players received 55% of the gross revenue.
In 1983, Gaines became an NFLPA Staff Representative, where he served as a liaison between the union and the players of seven teams. After a brief stint with the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League, Gaines was promoted to Senior Regional Director and placed at the head of the NFLPA Retired Players, Membership Services and Financial departments. With his vast experience, he was appointed Assistant Executive Director in 2008, working directly under Executive Director Gene Upshaw.
As an NFLPA employee for 27 years, Gaines began several new programs including the Native Vision program in 1996, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Game in 2012 and conducted annual player surveys that ranked NFL playing fields, which have influenced the improvement of numerous playing surfaces. After his illustrious tenure, Gaines retired in 2013.
Through all of his accomplishments, perhaps Gaines’ greatest contribution was his mentorship of countless player reps and executive committee members, guiding them as they navigated their dual responsibilities as player and union representatives, helping them better serve their teammates and their communities in the process. He has been, and continues to be, a close adviser to many NFLPA officers, presidents and staff members. His continual friendship, loyalty and support make him an incredible NFLPA hero.