As expected, Chargers left tackle Russell Okung has become the first player to throw his hat into the ring for the position of NFL Players Association president.
Okung officially disclosed his candidacy to Ken Belson of the New York Times.
An opponent of a 17-game season, Okung’s election — if it happens before the finalization of a new labor deal — could set the process back to square one or close to it. Currently, the NFL and NFLPA are negotiating a contract based on a 17-game regular season. As one source explained it earlier this month to PFT, if the 16-game season were continuing, an agreement already would be completed.
Okung not only wants to push hard against 17 games but also desires to take a more combative approach to the relationship with league owners.
“Are we in an equitable agreement with management?” Okung told Belson. “Right now, the answer is no. This will take as long as it needs to.”
It’s unclear whether Okung’s candidacy will gain traction. The clock is ticking, and he’ll need to, at a minimum, get players who may soon be voting on a new CBA to press pause until after the election.
“I expect more, and I’m not willing to be bashful about saying that,” Okung said. “I’ve made it really clear we need to exhaust every single opportunity we have in order to put our players in a better situation to take care of themselves, their families and to protect the future of this game.”
The article announcing Okung’s candidacy makes no mention of the ugliness that has emerged between Okung and the NFLPA, with the union finding based on an independing investigation that Okung, a member of the NFLPA Executive Committee, had gathered and disseminated confidential information in violation of union rules. The union proposed no specific action against Okung as punishment for the infraction. Okung denies any wrongdoing.
Whether it’s Okung or someone else, a new president will be elected in March. Current president Eric Winston is not eligible to run again, because he has not played in the last two seasons.