From recording the second-most sacks in NFL history to his 13 Pro Bowl appearances, Reggie White is extremely well known for his achievements as a defensive lineman during his Hall of Fame career. However, he is best known to the NFLPA as an alternate player rep for the Philadelphia Eagles in the early 1990s, and as the lead plaintiff in White v. NFL, the class-action antitrust case that the union filed on behalf of all players in the wake of its victory in the 1992 Freeman McNeil free agency case.
After the favorable McNeil ruling, the NFLPA filed the White case and eventually moved for a court order that would prohibit the clubs from continuing past restrictions on free agents. The parties settled on a new system in January 1993, just as Judge David Doty was deciding on the injunction request.
As part of the settlement, the class represented by White was eventually paid millions of dollars in damages. However, White declined to share in the money settlement, saying his involvement was based on principal and not on money.
Thanks to the settlement, White and other players named as class representatives were exempted from the franchise and transition player restrictions of the new agreement. That meant White was free to market his considerable talents to all NFL clubs during the 1993 offseason.
The “Minister of Defense” eventually signed with the Green Bay Packers, dispelling the belief that the best players would all flock to the biggest markets and the richest franchises if there were no restrictions on free agents. He would later lead Green Bay to a Super Bowl victory in 1997.
The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year retired after the 2000 season, and passed away in 2004 from the effects of a heart condition. White was one of the biggest voices for the NFLPA in their members’ fight to free agency, and for this he is remembered as a hero.