Cyrus Mehri has a website, a platform and now a campaign to unseat DeMaurice Smith as the NFLPA’s executive director. But the civil rights attorney won’t know until mid-October whether he gets to challenge Smith for the job.
A 14-member selection committee and, if necessary, the 32-member board of player representatives gets to decide whether to sign Smith to a contract extension without a March election.
Thus, Mehri, who announced his candidacy last month, stopped in Dallas on Tuesday night for the first of a series of town hall meetings in NFL cities. Although no current players attended, Mike Singletary, Daryl Johnston and Mike Scooter McGruder were among a handful of former players who listened, took notes and asked questions of Mehri.
Mehri laid out his campaign promises.
“I have three major critiques,” Mehri said. “1. De forfeited hundreds of millions of dollars per year; 2. He gave the commissioner a blank check on discipline. The consequences of that is having a process that doesn’t have independence, doesn’t have checks and balances, that lacks credibility; 3. It was horrible for the players that he agreed to this deal for 10 years, which is pretty much unprecedented in labor agreements. A lousy deal for 10 years. It’s great for the owners, which is their franchises have more than doubled in value, while players are still being put down.”
Mehri said revamping the league’s discipline policy is among the initial items on his to-do list.
“If I’m elected, in the first hundred days, I’m going to sit down with the commissioner and top brass and reform this discipline system, so we’ll have checks and balances for when the 2018 season starts up,” said Mehri, who was instrumental in the league adopting the Rooney Rule. “My guiding light is this: What’s best for the game? . . . I’ve taken the word ‘concessions’ out of the dialogue, and all we’re going to be talking about is what’s best for the game. What’s best for the game is to reform that system. What’s also best for the game is to dramatically improve the resources particularly at the club level to deal with and minimize and prevent from happening some of these off-the-field issues. Issues of DUIs. Issues of drug abuse. Issues of domestic violence that have kept players from playing, and they’re also human tragedies. So if we really redouble or triple the effort on that, to me, that’s something labor and management should be on the same page on, which is prevention of problems.
“That’s the difference between me and the incumbent, because the incumbent’s relationship is so poisonous and so contentious [with the NFL] that they can’t be problem-solving, but problem-solving is focusing on prevention of these issues.”
Mehri proposes a “Talking Tuesday” session for players once a month, where they can discuss issues of importance to them. He proposes 60-man rosters, shortening the waiting period for a second contract and reducing the preseason to three games as well as the obvious of negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
“There’s such a gap on the issue of guaranteed money between NFL players who have the highest risk and other sports leagues in this country,” Mehri said. “In our platform is a series of reforms that create pathways to get players into more guaranteed money. So item one is that right now you have to get to the second contract in years four or five. Well, we know there are superstars in this league that you don’t need to wait five years to know they’re superstars. Like Odell Beckham. Do we need to wait five years for that? So when the average NFL player career is three years I’m going to be trying to accelerate the second contract to be aligned with the average player career. Second, there’s a series of loopholes in the salary cap that prevent players from getting to the guaranteed money, so we’re going to try to address that. So there’s a whole series of economic changes. But No. 1, De Smith is going to keep this current agreement into 2021, and he’s saying there’s a virtual certainty there will be a work stoppage. What I’m saying is we’re going to negotiate in the spring of 2018, and we’re going to start tackling issues one at a time until we have a whole new CBA. But there might be some issues we can resolve and announce while we’re still negotiating the economics.”