Three years ago, sports lawyer David Cornwell was a finalist for the position of NFLPA executive director. Today, he’s taking aim at the man who ultimately won the job.
DeMaurice Smith’s contract expires in March. With no candidates yet challenging Smith, Cornwell possibly has laid the foundation for another run at the position by distributing to all agents a nine-page letter outlining Cornwell’s concerns with Smith’s leadership of the union.
“I believe that certain matters warrant your consideration and should be discussed with your clients as they assess De’s performance,” Cornwell writes. “De should be required to explain important decisions he made that will affect the lives of over two generations of NFL players over the next 10 years. Just as they did in 2008, the players will decide who leads them in 2012.”
Cornwell then outlines various questions regarding the financial aspects of the 2011 CBA, along with specific noneconomic concerns, including the handling of the Terrelle Pryor suspension, the treatment of players who tested positive under the substance-abuse policy following the lockout, the deal struck regarding players who violated the personal-conduct policy during the lockout, and an alleged failure to enforce regulations regarding agent conduct.
As to the substance-abuse policy, Cornwell claims that during CBA negotiations Smith “requested that ‘players who tested positive during the lockout’ be granted amnesty.” If accurate, this reflects a fundamental, and stunning, misunderstanding of the realities of the lockout. There was no drug testing during the lockout; thus, no players could have tested positive. Cornwell suggests that Smith was “embarrassed” once he realized his error, and that he thereafter did not raise the issue until after the CBA had been finalized.
Cornwell’s letter concludes with a plea for change: “Given that the term of the new CBA is 10 years, you and your clients may conclude that they and two generations of future players are stuck with it. No doubt the major elements ofthe CBA are here to stay for the next 10 years. But, that does not mean that players are stuck with the man who negotiated the deal.”
It’s strong stuff. The fact that we’re reporting on the letter doesn’t mean we agree with it. Smith is entitled to speak his mind in response, and he has an open invitation to do so, in writing or via an appearance on PFT Live.