The campaign for NFLPA executive director ended before it even began. For the candidate who never officially became a candidate, the campaign hasn’t ended.
In a letter to the eleven members of the NFLPA’s Executive Committee, Mehri vows to continue his effort to supplant DeMaurice Smith, two days after the NFLPA selection committee decided unanimously to extend Smith’s contract. Mehri, an accomplished lawyer who among other things helped force the league to adopt the Rooney Rule, refuses to concede to a process union leadership has decided to shift away from an automatic election every three years.
NFLPA president Eric Winston explained the new procedures in detail during a recent visit to PFT Live; the union has decided to adopt a process similar to other sports unions and businesses, eliminating the automatic election process.
“This isn’t a public office,” Winston said.
Mehri seems to think it is, and he has opted to place direct, public pressure on the men he would eventually serve, if he should ever get the job.
“I am very disappointed that you have decided not to conduct a thorough and comprehensive process for the election of the NFLPA Executive Director but have instead hurriedly rubber-stamped DeMaurice Smith’s selection and contract extension,” Mehri writes. “The NFLPA is not a corporation like Apple or a trade association like the NFL — it is a union which must have democratic principles at its core.”
Mehri also accuses the Executive Committee of a “failure to accord the membership this fundamental democratic opportunity to determine their destiny,” arguing that it both benefits the NFL and “weakens the NFLPA because its leader has become ever weaker without the legitimacy of an election.” Mehri said that his “efforts will not cease until there is a process for providing for a democratic election of the Executive Director.”
And if Mehri can’t secure the job through a campaign that isn’t going to happen, he apparently hopes to set the stage for the job to come open later, asking the Executive Committee to “insist that the contract’s termination provisions provide the utmost flexibility to the NFLPA,” making it “terminable at will” and without any guaranteed money.
“Prudence, as well as your fiduciary duties, compels such flexibility in order to protect the interests of the players and the treasury of the NFLPA,” Mehri writes.
Mehri’s advice, sound as it possibly may be when regarded in isolation, likely won’t register with the intended audience, if the intended audience is the Executive Committee. Pointed fingers and public confrontations are the way to persuade football players, and they’ll undoubtedly ignore Mehri’s aspirations now the same way they ignored him in deciding to give Smith a new term that will last at least three years, as dictated by the union’s Constitution.
But it’s possible that Mehri’s intended audience isn’t the list of names to whom the letter is addressed. Mehri may be hoping to recruit current players, former players, and members of the media to begin pressuring the Executive Committee either to change its Constitution to call for an election or to negotiate a contract that makes it easier for any new members of the Executive Committee to dump Smith and, presumably, hire Mehri.
The fact that Mehri’s effort gained no traction before the NFLPA decided to keep Smith (indeed, a grand total of no current players showed up for a meeting with players in Dallas) suggests that it won’t gain any more traction now that the NFLPA has decided to stay the course with Smith.