Mike Kenn by Jim Gehman
“I have very fond memories of the many roles I had with the NFL Players Association. From alternate rep to rep to executive committee member and then to NFLPA president,” Kenn said. “I got to know a lot of players that I would never have met, a lot of great leaders, a lot of individuals who were willing to go ahead and sacrifice for the good of others. From the ’82 strike to the ’87 strike to the lawsuits to the decertification, that all happened while I was involved. So I’ve got a lot of memories, a lot of friends from all of those battles.
“We decertified when I was president and that allowed us to go ahead and sue the NFL in antitrust court. Up until that time, it was labor court, and we were never successful in that venue. That was a scary proposition back then because we knew that there was a strong possibility that the league would prop up another union and try to sign players away. And they did.
“We were able to go ahead and hold enough of the players together and prevail with the settlement that basically traded the longest and most prosperous period of economic growth in the league history. For not only owners, but players also.
“That’s what I’m most proud of, being part of that with Gene Upshaw. He as the executive director and me as president.
Twenty-one seasons have passed since the last time Kenn wore a helmet and shoulder pads, and he is still a president. However, he is now the president and CEO of Government & Municipals Systems, LLC, in Atlanta, Georgia. One of three principals who founded the company in 2009, the business focuses on unfunded liabilities in deferred compensation plans, pension plans and healthcare trusts.
“To a certain degree it’s a revolutionary product. It has a phenomenal performance application. It’s taken us a while to get some traction with it because it’s new and folks aren’t familiar with this sort of approach, but now it’s finally starting to take off. I look forward to retiring again soon,” Kenn said with a laugh.
Kenn realized while he was still playing that he wouldn’t be looking to buy a rocking chair for the front porch and begin shooing kids off of his lawn right away.
“My biggest worry was that I was going to enter the job market at 39, 40 years old,” Kenn said. “The opinion I had of myself was that I had the ability to go ahead and become the CEO of a company, but I was entering the job market at an older age.
“I was always careful with my money and I always knew that coming from the era that I played in, we never made enough money to retire. I always knew that I was going to have to work (following my playing days).
“The modern day player, if they’re smart with their financial resources and if they can get at least seven or eight years in, they can theoretically if they did it right, not have to work again.”