SBD/Issue 98/Leagues & Governing Bodies

David Cornwell Raises Concern Over NFLPA Exec Dir Search

The most prominent public voice to come out against the process of selecting the next NFLPA Exec Dir, athlete attorney David Cornwell, says it is "deteriorating quickly." In a February 5 letter to NFLPA President Kevin Mawae, copied to presumed leading candidates Troy Vincent and Trace Armstrong, Cornwell wrote, "I urge you to elevate the selection process to include all players, agents and other advisors in the dialogue." Web site ProFootballTalk.com first reported that Cornwell had sent the letter. Cornwell, one of the final nine candidates for the job, was among four prospects removed from consideration last month by the NFLPA executive committee, leaving five candidates for the leading post in sports labor. Some insiders were surprised by his removal, having speculated he would survive the final cuts and go to the NFLPA annual meeting in Maui next month, where player reps will elect the next executive director. In the letter, Cornwell characterized the search as being "in complete disarray." Cornwell is not specific about the reasons, and would not comment on this point when contacted. Recently, a political brouhaha erupted when U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) said a letter sent on January 8 by four of his colleagues to the Department of Labor questioning the search process had been sparked by Vincent. Two of the letter senders, Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Edolphus Towns (D-NY), have denied that publicly. Allegations from those close to Vincent have argued that the NFLPA staff is trying to impede his election, while those against him maintain it is the former NFL safety who is manipulating the process. Either way, Cornwell worries in the letter that whomever is elected next month by the 32 player representatives could lead a divided union that the NFL owners will exploit in coming labor talks. His removal from the search could be seen as leaving him with an ax to grind, but he wrote his letter sprang from "a duty to protect the interests of NFL players." A source close to the NFL said that, while conventional wisdom considers a troubled search process as an advantage for the league, it is not in the owners' best interest to have a wounded partner across the table who would be unable to speak for all the players (Kaplan & Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal). 

Troy Vincent, If Elected,
Could Fire Top Execs
REDUCING THE FIELD: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Mullen & Kaplan report the NFLPA this week will reduce the finalists for the Exec Dir position from five to three, but "critics are questioning whether the winner will be able to effectively lead America's largest sports labor group because the process has become so clouded by politics." Some industry sources believe that as a "result of the chaos" stemming from Vincent's alleged interaction with Congressmen involved with the NFLPA's search, "anything could happen." Sources indicated that Vincent is "seen as having a plan to fire many top executives at the union," including interim Exec Dir Richard Berthelsen, while Armstrong would "save jobs of longtime union staff" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/9 issue). YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole noted it is unlikely that the NFLPA Exec Committee would "allow Vincent to make significant firings as the union heads into labor talks with the league." Eagles S and player rep Brian Dawkins said he would "have a hard time seeing us go into negotiation with the owners without" Berthelsen and NFLPA Outside Counsel Jeff Kessler (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/7).

PLAYING POLITICS: YAHOO SPORTS' Cole wrote the battle for the NFLPA's Exec Dir vacancy has become "very political, very ugly and potentially very harmful to the hopes of avoiding labor strife in the next few years." Giants C and player rep Shaun O'Hara: "This is not a good time for us to be divided." Former NFLPA player rep Roman Oben said, "Whether it's Troy or Trace or any of the other candidates, we've gotten into tearing down their credentials rather than hearing their ideas. ... What's most disturbing to me is that we've gotten to this point that we view the NFLPA almost like a business because of all the money that's involved, and really what it's supposed to be is an organization to service the needs of the players." But Dawkins said, "I look at it as a positive thing for the union. If this causes player reps to look into their laptops more to understand the union issues and learn about the [CBA], that's a good thing" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/7).

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