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Volume 21 No. 6
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NFLPA gives players new oversight roles

The NFL Players Association has adopted a constitution that creates new leadership positions for players and appears to give them more power while putting checks on the executive director, its top executive.

The new constitution creates the player position of treasurer, which will oversee the finances of the union, and a selection committee to evaluate the executive director and, if necessary, find a new one. Additionally, the executive director is no longer the principal administrative officer of the union, but the principal administrative employee. It’s unclear from the document what effects the change might have.

The NFLPA declined to comment for this story.

DeMaurice Smith may not have to stand for re-election.
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The changes to the union’s election process for its executive director mean that DeMaurice Smith, who won the role in 2009, may not have to stand for re-election in March, as he would have had to under the old rules, news that was first reported by The Washington Post. But the sweeping changes to the union’s governing document also means that Smith or any future executive director will be subject to what amounts to a vote of confidence from top player union leaders, as well as a formal job assessment process.

Under the new constitution, the executive director must report on goals and accomplishments in the current term no later than Sept. 15 of the year before his or her contract expires. Within two weeks, the executive director must tell the committee whether he or she wishes to continue to serve after the expiration of the term.

The NFLPA’s 11-member executive committee now must negotiate an employment contract with the executive director with a term not less than three years but not longer than five years. Under the old constitution, there was no specific term length specified for the position.

Under the old rules, anyone could force an election for the top job if they got three player representatives to endorse them. The provision was in the constitution for years under Gene Upshaw, who died in 2008 after leading the NFLPA for 25 years. But it was never exercised until 2015, when eight challengers to Smith persuaded three player representatives to put their names on the ballot.

The large number of candidates, most of whom turned in their player rep recommendations at the last minute, made for a confusing and arduous election process, and players voted unanimously to study the process after Smith was re-elected. It is not clear when players voted on the new constitution.

Under the new rules, a different group of player leaders will decide the executive director’s fate and whether there will be an election.

The new document creates a selection committee consisting of the 11 executive committee members and the three most senior player representatives. That group will hear Smith’s progress report by Sept. 15. Then, if Smith wants to continue in his role, they will vote no later than Oct. 15.

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The new constitution provides:

If all 14 members vote for the executive director to continue, there will be no election and the executive committee will begin negotiations for a new contract for the executive director.

If more than six but fewer than 14 members vote to have the executive director continue, the question will be put to the player reps and a two-thirds majority is needed for the executive director to continue.

If fewer than six of the 14 vote to have the executive director continue, the position is considered open and an election is set for March. The new constitution does not explicitly bar the executive director from running again.

The treasurer is now part of the 11-member executive committee. Free agent offensive lineman Ryan Wendell joined NFLPA President Eric Winston in signing the annual financial report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, making it appear that Wendell is the new treasurer. The previous annual report was signed by executive director Smith and employee Charles Ross, and included a note that said, “The organization does not have a Treasurer. The Director of Finance signs in lieu of a Treasurer.”