NFLPA Elects New Executive Director

Posted March 15th, 2009 by RetiredPlayers

The NFLPA has elected a new executive director.  After presentations by Trace Armstrong, David Cornwell, DeMaurice Smith, and Troy Vincent on Saturday, NFLPA player representatives had question-and-answer sessions with the candidates on Sunday.  Hillard Heintze Strategic Security Advisors performed background checks on the candidates and reported the results to the player reps.  Following the question-and-answer sessions, each candidate had a chance to present a fifteen minute closing argument to prove they were deserving of the position.

The vote was taken and KMH LLP, a Honolulu accounting firm, tallied the votes. 

New NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith

New NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith

Patton Boggs attorney DeMaurice Smith was elected as the NFLPA’s executive director.  Smith needed 17 of the 32 player representatives’ votes to be declared the winner.  He reportedly received the majority vote on the first ballot.

Smith was called an outsider to the football world and a long shot candidate by some.  After winning the majority vote on the first ballot, Smith obviously proved to the player reps that he has what it takes to lead players into the next round of collective bargaining.

Retired players should be willing to give Smith a chance to heal the currently fractured relationship between the union and retired players.  This is the first opportunity for that to happen in a very long time.

Update: DeMaurice Smith was elected by a unanimous vote to the executive director position.

Second Update: is reporting that Smith received 20 of 32 votes.  Troy Vincent received six votes.  The remaining six votes were split between David Cornwell and Trace Armstrong.  A motion was made to make the outcome unanimous and the motion carried.

Player Reps Should Initiate New Search Process This Weekend

Posted March 12th, 2009 by RetiredPlayers

This weekend the NFLPA’s Board of Player Representatives will hold their annual meeting in Maui.  Obviously, the biggest task at hand for the player reps is electing a new NFLPA Executive Director.  The 32 reps are set to vote for the Gene Upshaw’s replacement after hearing one hour presentations from each candidate and then meeting with the candidates in smaller “breakout” groups.  This will be the first and only chance for player reps to hear from the candidates before casting their votes.

The search process for the next Executive Director has been extremely controversial.  An outside search firm was hired and a six member search committee narrowed the list of candidates to three.  During the process rumors have swirled around the two candidates who are former players.  There have been allegations of conflicts of interest, failed business ventures, and even criminal associations.  A congressional inquiry looked into the integrity of the NFLPA’s search process.

Image from SportsBusiness Journal

Image from SportsBusiness Journal

Joseph Yablonski, a longtime outside attorney for the NFLPA, was hired by the union to investigate alleged misconduct by former NFLPA President and Executive Director candidate Troy Vincent.  Yablonski’s objectivity has been questioned because of his 25 year relationship with the union.

“The fact that the NFLPA has hired an attorney to investigate one of the final candidate’s actions should raise red flags all over the place, including both internally and externally,” said Ian Pulver, who worked for more than a decade as the associate counsel of the NHLPA and now is an NHL agent. “The smoke signals emanating from the search process lead me to believe that the players may be wise to scrap the entire process and start over.”

In what some have viewed as dissatisfaction with the search process, attorney David Cornwell was reinstated as a candidate after receiving the endorsement of three player representatives.  Cornwell was previously eliminated as a candidate by the search committee in January.

With $8 billion dollars of NFL revenue on the line each year and 32 NFL owners determined to get concessions from the union in the next round of CBA negotiations, the players need to prove that the majority of the membership supports the next Executive Director.  NFL owners may look to take advantage of the players if they aren’t completely behind Upshaw’s replacement.

With the lack of input from the NFLPA rank-and-file, a highly criticized search process, and an incomplete investigation into one of the candidates, the NFLPA should scrap the current search.  They should start fresh with a search that includes the input of the entire membership rather than just a select few.

Allow all players to learn about the qualifications and positions of the candidates.  Recognizing what’s at stake for players, you would expect a thorough evaluation of the four candidates to last more than a weekend.

It seems the current search process has focused more on satisfying the union’s administrative staff than serving the NFLPA’s dues paying membership.  NFL owners are well aware that players have been unable to unite and stage a successful work stoppage or endure a lockout in the past.  Leadership is critical for the players, but so is their unity.  The best way to unite the players is to allow all of them access to the process to choose the best candidate.  That candidate will ultimately lead them into the next round of collective bargaining.

Former Player Examines How NFL Player Reps Are Elected

Posted March 11th, 2009 by RetiredPlayers
Ross Tucker played six years in the NFL and now writes for Sports Illustrated

Ross Tucker played six years in the NFL and now writes for Sports Illustrated

Former player Ross Tucker, who played six years in the NFL, is now a writer for  In his latest article, Tucker examines the flawed method of how the NFL’s 32 player representatives are elected.  The player reps are the only people who have a vote in choosing the NFLPA’s next Executive Director.   According to Tucker, reps are often voted in based upon their popularity in the locker room as opposed to any substantial campaign platform.  In fact, Tucker says that when he was nominated to serve as a player rep he wasn’t allowed to present his platform to his teammates.  The article indicates some player reps are more interested in an all-expense paid vacation to Hawaii than serving the NFLPA’s membership.  He suggests the NFLPA’s annual meeting be moved from Hawaii to Wichita, Kansas.

To read Ross Tucker’s article click HERE.

NFL Retired Players’ Class Action Appeal Could Take Years to Resolve

Posted March 11th, 2009 by RetiredPlayers

Dan Kaplan of the SportsBusiness Journal reports that the appeal of the retired players $28.1 million dollar verdict against the NFLPA could take years to resolve.  The lawsuit stems from the NFLPA’s group licensing program for NFL retirees.  Ron Katz, the attorney who represented 2,062 former NFL players in the lawsuit, said a decision on the appeal would not be made until 2011 or 2012 due to the number of cases pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The NFLPA has said it will appeal the verdict all the way to the Supreme Court.  If that happens the appeal process could run into 2013.

If the verdict is upheld the NFLPA would be responsible for interest on the $28.1 million while the appeal is pending.  They could also be responsible for the additional attorneys’ fees incurred by the retired players during the appeal process.

The final outcome of the case may not be decided for years.  The next NFLPA Executive Director may prefer to settle the case and not deal with the negative publicity stemming from the mistreatment of former NFL players.  It seems the one candidate least likely to settle the retired players’ verdict is former player Trace Armstrong.  Armstrong testified for the defense in the case.

An article regarding Armstrong’s candidacy for the NFLPA Executive Director position appeared in SportsBusiness Journal on March 9, 2009.  At the end of each story readers are permitted to leave comments.  Retired players’ attorney Ron Katz left the following comment:

“As co-counsel for the retired players in their $28,100,000 jury verdict against the NFLPA last November, I hold the strong opinion that Mr. Armstrong’s testimony as an NFLPA witness was not credible to the jury and that his selection would deepen the artificial divide that Messrs. Upshaw, Allen, and Armstrong created between active and retired players. There should be absolutely no conflict between active and retired players because all active players will become retired players in a short time and many, unfortunately, will have to deal with a disability system that ignores serious injury and illness.”

The NFLPA solicited retired players to sign the group licensing agreements for over fourteen years.  Not a single former NFL player was ever paid under the retired players’ group licensing program.

Is the NFLPA Retired Players Department Relevant?

Posted March 5th, 2009 by RetiredPlayers

The current state of the NFLPA Retired Players Department has left many retirees looking for representation elsewhere.  In recent years the membership of many chapters of the NFL Retired Players Association has dropped dramatically. Less than 175 of the NFL’s 13,000 retirees attended the NFLPA Retired Players Convention in Puerto Rico in 2008.   This has led to many retirees questioning the relevance of the organization. Andre Collins, the director of the retired players department of the NFLPA, did not attend a single session of  the three week class action trial regarding retired player licensing.  Also absent was NFLPA Retired Players Steering Committee President Jean Fugett.


NFLPA Retired Players Steering Committee President Jean Fugett

The NFLPA has stated that every dollar that goes to retirees comes from the pockets of today’s active players.  This has lead to what many perceive as an adversarial relationship between NFL retirees and current players.  The Retired Players Department at the NFLPA offices has done little to create a relationship between today’s and yesterday’s players.  Many retirees feel that if they had a forum to discuss these issues with current players that it would be a positive for both groups.

Retired Players Steering Committee President Jean Fugett will attend the active players annual meeting in Hawaii next weekend.  Fugett will appear to represent the NFL’s 13,000 retirees.  In reality, Fugett only represents the less than 175 NFLPA Retired Players members who voted in the Steering Committee election in Puerto Rico.

During his trip to Hawaii, Fugett has said he will not discuss the current lack of communication between active and retired players.  Nor will he discuss the possibility of resolving the retired players class action lawsuit as several steering committee members and chapter presidents have requested.

Fugett will not carry the message of the majority of NFL retirees to the active players in Hawaii.  Active players should realize that while Fugett speaks in Hawaii he is representing roughly one percent of the NFL retired player population.

The relationship between active and retired players needs to improve.  Open, uncensored communication is the first step in the healing process.

The speech Fugett gave to active players in 2008 can be viewed by clicking HERE.

Another Executive Director Candidate Emerges

Posted March 4th, 2009 by RetiredPlayers

The National Football Post reports attorney David Cornwell, who was once eliminated as a candidate for the NFLPA Executive Director position, is now back in the race.  Cornwell received the written endorsement of at least three members of the NFLPA’s Board of Representatives.  Section 4.04 of the NFLPA Constitution allows any number of candidates to be eligible for election if they have the endorsement of three player reps. The NFLPA’s six man search committee eliminated Cornwell from contention in January.

The NFLPA hired Pat Richter, a former classmate of Interim Executive Director Richard Berthelsen at the University of Wisconsin, to serve as a consultant throughout the search process.  Many feel that Berthelsen and the NFLPA’s outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler have been steering the search process toward their desired candidate.  That candidate is believed to be former NFL player Trace Armstrong.

Armstrong now works as an agent for Tom Condon at the Creative Arts Agency.  Condon served as Gene Upshaw’s agent while Upshaw was Executive Director.  Condon also sits on the NFL Disability Plan’s Board.  Armstrong is viewed as the candidate most willing to maintain the status quo of a union that has been the subject of  much criticism in the recent past.

It’s good to see some independent thinking by the NFLPA’s player representatives.  It shows that some have become dissatisfied with the current NFLPA power structure and haven’t bought into procedure of the six member search committee. The NFLPA membership has been left out of the selection process of the next Executive Director.  The candidates for the position have been unable to create a campaign platform to share with the NFLPA’s membership.  Instead, the election will take place at the NFLPA’s Annual Meeting of 32 player representatives and their alternates without the NFLPA membership ever having heard a word from any of the candidates.  For the player reps, this will be the first opportunity for many of them to hear from the candidates.

It is hard to believe that the NFLPA with over $290 million in assets would not finance a more democratic search process which included more of its membership.  The annual meeting runs March 13th to 15th in Hawaii and the election for the next Executive Director is scheduled to take place during that time.