Mawae reflects on 13 years of service to the NFLPA
“I didn’t think I would be emotional about it, but as I sat in the executive committee meeting earlier in the week, knowing it was my last executive committee meeting that I would preside over, you know, it was a little bittersweet,” Mawae said in an interview while in Marco Island, Fla., where the NFLPA held its annual meeting. “But you know, it is time for new leadership to step up and take the reins and to continue on in the tradition of the great leaders of this organization.”
Both Smith and Foxworth ran unopposed and were elected unanimously.
Mawae, who had been president since 2008, was not eligible to run for the position because he didn’t play in the NFL last year after having announced his retirement. He was first elected to a union leadership position in 1999, as a player rep for the New York Jets. During the interview, Mawae reminisced about his years leading the union, including the 2011 NFL lockout and during the time right after the unexpected death of former NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw in 2008.
|Kevin Mawae was first elected to a union leadership position in 1999.
Mawae said the highest points were when Smith was elected executive director and when the players association was able to secure labor peace for 10 years through the new collective-bargaining agreement reached last year.
As for the bad times, Mawae said, “The worst day of my tenure was the day that Gene died.” But the worst period of time, he said, was the run of months between Upshaw’s death in August 2008 until Smith was elected executive director in March 2009. Mawae, as president, and the NFLPA executive committee led the search and oversaw the election in which Smith got the job.
“It was a learning process for me because of the position I was in,” Mawae said. “I had to develop a thick skin and I had to stick to my convictions when people didn’t believe in what I was doing.”
The process featured a field of four finalists for the job: Smith, former NFLPA presidents Trace Armstrong and Troy Vincent, and sports attorney David Cornwell, with the new executive director expected to lead the union against the league in the new labor negotiations. It also came with the built-in emotional challenges of finding a successor for Upshaw given both the shock of his unexpected death and the consistency he’d brought to the union as its executive director for 25 years.
Mawae declined to comment in detail about that period, but did say, “Everybody in the sporting world knows how politically charged that entire process was. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I did it with the fullest integrity and I did it the right way.”
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