At first blush, it seemed odd that lawyer Cyrus Mehri declared his intention to challenge NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith in late August, months before the next election. Mehri’s timing now makes a lot more sense.
Mark Maske of the Washington Post reports that the NFLPA has established procedures that can make a March election moot. By October 15, a 14-person selection committee and, if necessary, the 32-team board of players representatives will determine whether to extend Smith’s contract without a full-blown election. A positive vote would end the issue; a negative vote would open the door to challengers.
“De Smith has given the vast majority of NFL players and the public at large the false impression that the election is in March of 2018,” Mehri told Maske. “Meanwhile, he devised a scheme with a virtually secret and unobtainable constitution to prevent any election at all.”
Here’s how the October vote will unfold. If all 14 members of the selection committee approve extending De Smith’s contract, it will happen automatically. If seven to 13 approve it, the board of player representatives would then vote of the matter. If two-thirds of them approve, the contract will be extended.
If six of fewer members of the selection committee favor a new contract or, absent unanimity of the selection committee, less than two-thirds of the player representatives authorize it, the job will be declared open. The selection committee would then identify two to four candidates for the job. Mehri wouldn’t automatically be one of them.
Mehri understandably is attacking the new procedures.
“It is ironic in a league where players have to compete every single day that De Smith is afraid of competition,” Mehri said. “NFL players deserve better. . . . We will not let him get away with this. Players deserve choices. We are going to fight every day to advance player voices and choices. To be the [executive director] of the NFLPA is a privilege that should be earned every three years in broad daylight. The stakes are too high to deprive NFL players of an opportunity to evaluate the candidates after a full debate.”
The new rules prevent the umpteen-candidate clusterfudge that unfolded in 2015, when would-be executive directors streamed out of the woodwork to challenge Smith. Those procedures actually help the incumbent, if the candidates approach or exceed 10.
Balanced against Mehri’s zeal for competition is the reality that the NFL Players Association also benefits from certainty and minimal internal turmoil, especially with a CBA negotiation looming. Giving Smith a clear vote of confidence at a time when Commissioner Roger Goodell (who never faces any election or competition for the job) is poised to be extended through 2024 could be the right message to send to management.
However it plays out, the executive director should have a contract that lasts through 2021. A three-year deal for Smith or Mehri or anyone else will result in the next contract expiring days after the labor contract expires. Which would not be good for the players, at all.