There are countless platforms on which to share your opinion, but opinions alone do not move our country or institutions forward. One of, if not the most, impactful opportunities to voice your beliefs, values and priorities is by participating in the democratic process -- whether that’s through voting on your union representatives or by participating in your local, state and federal elections.
Like the United States, the NFLPA is a representative democracy. In this representative system, every player has a voice and every player has the opportunity to vote. Each player has a say in how we as NFL players will be paid, what benefits we collect and under what rules we work. Players can make their voice heard by: 1.) submitting their votes on issues opened up to an all-player vote (e.g., every dues-paying member was able to vote on our recently passed CBA) and 2.) electing one union representative and three alternate representatives from their locker room. It’s easy to focus on ramping up involvement with the NFLPA before the CBA is renegotiated, but the success of our union depends on consistent, active education and engagement.
In recent weeks, our player directors have helped conduct elections for union representatives on all 32 teams. By nominating and voting for these player reps, their teammates are entrusting them to represent the diverse interests of all the players in that locker room.
In many ways, the NFL is a microcosm of our country. Our members come from every corner of the country and different parts of the world, and have a wide range of background experiences, income levels, professional paths (practice squad or active roster) and age (rookie, second-contract players, veterans, etc.). The best player reps actively educate themselves on the sometimes-conflicting priorities of the men in their locker rooms.
The player reps participate in the governance of the NFLPA by developing proposals, and then presenting and voting on those proposed resolutions in the best interest of their locker room during our annual meetings in March. These decisions can be as small as voting on a resolution to improve the visiting locker rooms, or as big as advocating for grass fields across our league. Player reps help hold each NFL club accountable to our CBA. They keep union leadership updated with key issues from their locker rooms and are responsible for relaying important issues back to their teammates. Every step in our democratic system leads to an important decision that has an impact on a player’s job, but none of it is possible if players do not participate in our process.
Union representatives are also tasked with electing our next branch of leadership: every two years, they select members to serve as the NFLPA President, as well as the nine Vice Presidents and one Treasurer, all of whom make up our Executive Committee (EC). The role of the President and Executive Committee is to become experts in key player issues and represent all players when negotiating with NFL team owners. Each level of our NFLPA governing system plays an important role in properly representing the interests of the members of our union.
America's National Election Day is tomorrow. Just as participating in the voting process and understanding how representation matters are critical in our workplace, the importance of participating in all levels of the upcoming election cannot be overstated. Your voice does not count if you do not vote, and who represents you at all levels of government matters. Just as your rep, your EC and your NFLPA President each have distinct roles for representing you in the workplace, it is important to educate yourself on the candidates at the local, state and national levels.
I am proud that 90% of our membership is registered to vote. Our players have used their social media platforms as well as their relationships with their teams to encourage voter registration, educate voters on the different ways to cast a ballot, and even expand polling sites. If we have not already, it is time for us all to turn our opinions into action by casting our votes by tomorrow. Be an #AthleteAndVoter.
It’s also crucial to remember that the right to vote is available to us more than just every four years when we vote for a new president. The state and local elections that take place between the national races have meaningful impacts on our daily lives; schools, roads and criminal justice systems are determined in large part by votes scheduled for non-presidential election years. No matter the result of this election on Tuesday, a healthy democracy depends on an informed and educated citizenship, which I hope we will all continue to be a part of.
- JC Tretter