As current NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith meets with the NFL, his potential successor has been quietly laying the foundation for next year’s effort to claim the office.
Sean Gilbert, a former NFL player, has declared his intention to pursue the job held by Smith since 2009. At the Scouting Combine, Gilbert met with 25-to-30 agents. Recently, he sent an email to agents elaborating on some of his ideas and explaining that he’s in the process of drafting a full platform.
His book, The $29 Million Tip, shares some of that platform by advocating for an 18-game season in exchange for three years to free agency. That has caused some to claim that Gilbert isn’t as committed to player safety as he should be. Gilbert disputes that contention in his email to agents, a copy of which PFT has obtained.
“I would never negotiate the health and safety of our players,” Gilbert wrote. “The health and safety of NFL players is priceless and should be respected by both the union and the owners.”
Gilbert continues to be concerned about the financial quality of the current CBA.
“Under Gene Upshaw, the salary cap would have been $157 million this year instead of $133 million. That is a shift of $768 million from players to owners THIS YEAR ALONE,” Gilbert wrote. “Through the first four years of this Collective Bargaining Agreement, more than $2.5 billion has already shifted from the players to the owners.”
That’s why Gilbert is suggesting that the players should look for a way to pull the plug on the current CBA. In support of his case for change, he lays out five options. Here they are, in Gilbert’s words:
Gilbert doesn’t identify an option that he prefers in the email. But his past comments indicate that he like the idea of terminating the agreement prematurely; his email confirms that the path to ending the contract comes from allegations of collusion.
And while he doesn’t advocate striking now (which would violate the terms of the CBA), scuttling the CBA could be a precursor to a strike.
So why is Gilbert making a pitch directly to agents? Many of them have been privately griping about the current labor deal since it was signed in August 2011, and they have a direct pipeline to players who can position themselves to become player representatives for one of the 32 teams.
If, in the end, Gilbert places 17 players who would vote for him as representatives for the 2014-15 season, Gilbert will have enough support to win the job.