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.