Eric Winston on NFLPA executive director job: “This isn’t a public office”


The NFL Players Association has decided to keep executive director DeMaurice Smith via a new process adopted by the union since the last time Smith was appointed to a three-year term. Some (specifically lawyer Cyrus Mehri, who reiterated his criticism via a statement issued on Wednesday) contend that the new process was “orchestrated” by Smith.

Appearing on PFT Live, NFLPA president Eric Winston strongly rejected the suggestion that Smith manipulated the union’s constitution to make it harder to replace him.

“I think it’s a slap in the face when you start talking about that because . . . I can tell you De Smith has nothing to do with the resolution process,” Winston said. “He’s in the back, he offers his opinion when he’s asked and that’s it. The board, the executive committee, and the guys run the resolution process. This was run through resolution so we had a committee, again we studied it all year and then guys decided what process was best for them. We ended up talking about this for an hour during meetings. Going back and forth, ‘OK, should it be unanimous? Should it not be unanimous? Should it be a two-thirds vote here?’

“Guys really got into this and studied this because the guys that went through it a three years ago realized they don’t want to leave it the same way for the next guy. That they want a better process for the next guy and that’s more so than anything, this isn’t about De Smith and this isn’t about any of that. This is about the institution, and I think it goes to show you how little people know and how much people think that it’s just executive-director driven. The board sets the agenda, the executive director carries out the wishes of the board and that’s it, and people that think any otherwise or think it goes any other way, that De Smith just pulls strings and does this I think are sadly mistaken and honestly haven’t really studied or understand the job.”

Mehri suggested during the campaign that never became a campaign that there should be an open “competition” for the job.

“Is that the way Apple does it?” Winston said. “Does Apple open up for their CEO spot? Does Tim Cook have to run against someone every three years? Does the Commissioner run against someone? Is that how the NFL does business? I think that’s silly.

“I think there’s a time and a place for elections, but again this isn’t a public office. And that’s sort of what we had three years ago, and guys overwhelmingly rejected that thought. They want to have a professionally run business, a professionally run union that first of all — just like anybody else, whether it’s the NFL owners evaluate the Commissioner when his job comes up, other unions evaluate their executive directors and, frankly, top companies evaluate, their board evaluates the job the CEO has done and says, ‘OK, is that guy the right guy to lead us going forward or do we need to go looking for another one?’ They don’t bring in other CEOs [and say], ‘Let’s see what kind of strategy this guy has.’ So I kind of reject the notion that there needs to be a street fight every three years or every four or five years to decide if we have the right guy. I don’t think that necessarily healthy for the union and I don’t think frankly that’s how good companies are run.”

Winston also addressed whether Mehri, who was regularly issuing press releases and securing endorsements from former players, moved the needle at all with the 14 members of the selection committee.

“You’d have to ask them,” Winston said. “I mean obviously I know he ran as if this was a public campaign and frankly maybe he thought it was for whatever reason but he didn’t do the homework and understand what the process was and how the process has changed. But obviously he didn’t move the needle with guys and frankly a lot of the things he said we’re going forward with already, so there wasn’t a lot of new criticism and what he said was a lot of what people said three years ago and that was kind of similarly rejected as well three years ago. You know, I’m not gonna sit here and bag on Cyrus Mehri. Obviously he means well and I’m really happy that a guy like that is gonna be a player advocate going forward. I mean, I think the Fitz Pollard Alliance, obviously him and Mr. [John] Wooten who run the Fritz Pollard Alliance obviously are very interested in player rights and . . . I’m looking forward to their support coming through. So now that the Fritz Pollard Alliance has identified themselves with player rights I’m looking forward to them and we’re going need their support now going forward when we re-engage into renegotiation” of the labor deal.

Mehri’s latest statement advocates for a change in the constitution to force the kind of open campaign for which he has been jostling. And it’s hard to fault him for that; he clearly wants the job. But plenty of people want plenty of jobs that already are filled, and the players have decided (via their elected representatives) to move away from a public-style election every three years and to replace that with a threshold analysis of whether they want to keep the person who currently has the job. Given that not a single current player has publicly suggested changing that process, it’s hard to imagine the process changing.

17 responses to “Eric Winston on NFLPA executive director job: “This isn’t a public office”

  1. Uhh…he does realize that Apple is a share driven corporation, right? And that a CEO is completely different from an Executive Director of a players union?

    It sounds like he is the one that is mistaken. And it sounds like he and the board shafted the rest of the players in their say to vote on it. They elected to keep an idiot. Congratulations. Wait until he loses another CBA for you.

  2. NFL players just can’t help themselves. They want to complain about their CBA but then put the puppet back in place that caused them this trouble.

  3. This is the same guy that said he doesn’t care if the NFL is still here in 20 years. Maybe Winston can go get a real job like the rest of us and see if he still cares. Players Union screwed themselves keeping these dunces in charge, expect to get hosed by the owners again

  4. I am admittedly not in labor relations. I have had to deal with unions from time to time. Most unions actually do have elections for many positions, not just International President, but every important position down the chain, even down to the Business Agent of the “Local 213.” And the boards are usually part of the good old boys network or have the remnants of organized crime. A lot of greased palms. Major corporations replace their CEO’s by Election of the Board. Bottom line is that the process is done, and the owners are smiling into their Louis XIII toasting that fact. CBA is gonna be funny.

  5. “Is that the way Apple does it?” Winston said. “Does Apple open up for their CEO spot?”

    Actually, Eric, shareholders in corporations can vote to push the CEO out. Happens all the time.

    But that’s not the point. The NFLPA is not a corporation, it’s a union. And most unions elect their leaders.

  6. This guy sounds so disillusioned. Wish they had a CTE check while you’re still alive…
    Funny, he is saying that the like where they are and that the strategies that D Smith submitted were approved by this committee and hence his re-election. Are you kidding me? You like where you’re at????
    I have heard nothing but complaining from the union for the last handful of years since the last CBA. If you like where you’re at why have you been complaining non stop for 5 years? NFLPA has standing appointments at the courts because they are always fighting something that they collectively agreed to during the CBA.
    Complete contradiction. You guys are screwed.
    Good luck you dummies. You asked for this. Now get ready to get your butts kicked in the next round of negotiations.

  7. It is what it is. One way or another in an elective process, even a representative one, the electorate gets the ‘leader’ it deserves.

  8. Is it ironic that a group formed because they want to use, in part, the democratic process to determine their working conditions, doesn’t want to use the democratic process to determine their leadership because they are afraid to lose their jobs? Classic – comparing the NFLPA to Apple and its processes and executive structure.

    Also, this quote cracked me up:

    “So I kind of reject the notion that there needs to be a street fight every three years or every four or five years to decide if we have the right guy. I don’t think that necessarily healthy for the union and I don’t think frankly that’s how good companies are run.”

    Afraid of a fight? What exactly does he think the CBA process is? Most contracts, I’ve seen anyway, are 3ish years in duration and that’s exactly what happens – a “street fight” between the union and the Company.

    Union stooges are great.

  9. De Smith and Godell get to retire on their terms at this point. Even if they do a terrible job and sleep with their board members wives, they still retire, just sooner than otherwise, so to suggest elections are going to bring some unknown candidate, who hasn’t had to scratch and lie his way to the top job, out of nowhere is foolish.

    The backstabbing and politicking got them where they are. The internal struggles and politics and backstabbing to replace either of them are currently happening for when the time comes, and are well behind hidden doors.

  10. Winston says we’re not a public office, but they’re very quick to have players like Elliot use public law to sue the NFL. This union is constantly at odds with the NFL. They don’t care about NFL bylaws. However, players sign on to NFL contracts and policies with their contracts. If they don’t like it they just file suit and circumvent their covenants. The NFL and NFLPA don’t work together for the betterment of the league as a whole. They fight each other.

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