SBJ/20080915/This Week's News

Vincent says Upshaw wasn’t speaking to him

Former NFL Players Association player president Troy Vincent, considered a leading candidate to succeed Gene Upshaw, was not on speaking terms with the union executive director for five months before Upshaw died.

Vincent, in an interview last week, said he did not have any contact with Upshaw after mid-March, when he left his position of player president at the union’s annual player representative meetings.

“He didn’t speak to me. I had sent him a few messages post our rep meetings and that was a decision he made, whether to correspond or not,” Vincent said.

Vincent said he would not comment on whether he will seek Upshaw’s position until the players “believe I am a viable candidate.”

“There is speculation, (but) I don’t even know if I am a candidate,” he said. “What I have done is educate myself and prepare myself to be a resource to the men all of my career as a player, as a rep, as an executive committee member and as my time as player president.”

 Upshaw cut off communications with Vincent following the annual meeting in Maui after multiple sources said an attempted coup failed to replace Upshaw with Vincent. Additionally, sources said, the relationship soured when a story was printed at that same time stating that Vincent expected to be named to the No. 2 position at the union.

Vincent denied he was part of any coup attempt or that he was the source of the March 19 Yahoo! Sports story, “Vincent to become union’s No. 2,” even though he was originally quoted as the source of the story. (That story was later removed and a second story attributing the same information to two unnamed sources was posted on the Internet.)

Troy Vincent, a former NFLPA player
president, has been mentioned as a
candidate for executive director.

Vincent also said he was not involved in any effort to try to force Upshaw to name a successor or in leaks to the media of those activities over the past several months.“Some of those things I read about on the ticker tape on ESPN and all I could do was shake my head,” Vincent said, adding that such stories were not good for the NFLPA.

“What do I have to gain to undermine someone who was a mentor to me, a tremendous leader to me?” Vincent said. But he has no explanation why Upshaw, who had maintained friendly relationships with other past NFLPA player leaders, ended their relationship.

Before the March meeting, many media outlets, including the NFL Network, reported that Vincent was Upshaw’s logical successor.

But union experts said the falling out could be a factor in whether he gets the job.

“I think it is definitely going to be an issue,” said Josh Zuckerberg, a partner in the labor and employment practice at Pryor Cashman.

“There is going to be an old guard that is more aligned with Upshaw and I think they may view Vincent as a challenge to that,” Zuckerberg said. “If there is a real upsurge of support for policies and candidates who want to run against the legacy of Upshaw” it could actually be a positive factor for Vincent, he said.

Bill Gould, a Stanford Law School professor and former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, said, “The fact that there is bad feeling could obviously make it difficult for him to get elected and function, but it doesn’t go to the question of whether or not he is qualified to do the job.”

Sources say there is definitely a strong Upshaw camp at the union, as well as some players who support Vincent.

Insiders say Vincent is one of three top player candidates for the job, the others being former NFLPA executive committee member Robert Smith and former NFLPA  president Trace Armstrong. Smith and Armstrong remained close to Upshaw at the time of his death. And Armstrong spoke at Upshaw’s public memorial service at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. on Sept. 2.

 Vincent was at the public service, but was not a speaker and did not attend, as many current and former players did, a gathering at the NFLPA’s D.C. offices afterward. Two SportsBusiness Journal reporters saw Vincent moving quickly down the stairs of the Kennedy Center into the parking garage as the service was ending and before the rest of the crowd of about 1,500 emerged from the service.

“I didn’t rush,” Vincent said. “It was over. There was no need for me to sit around and talk about things that were inappropriate from a timing standpoint.” He said reporters and players were asking about his plans before the service.

“I felt that was the Upshaw family’s day and that is the way I was going to leave it and I wasn’t going to discuss my future as it pertains to the organization or anything about it,” he said.

Staff writer Daniel Kaplan contributed to this report.

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