Setting The Record Straight About Our Union
March 4, 2021
An ESPN article covering the last 10+ years of our union’s history has recently stirred up some controversy and I am writing this to all our members to set some things straight. I personally believe our union is not beyond reproach and we should constantly strive to be better for our membership, but we have to be rooted in facts. When I ran for president, I promised our members transparency and open communication. That said, after reading through the article and quickly recognizing several instances of misinformation, I decided to do my own research in order to provide our members with the facts behind key issues in the article. We will have an opportunity to discuss these in further detail at the NFLPA’s annual Rep Meeting next week, but for those players who aren’t able to attend, I hope that sharing what I’ve found in my own investigation helps provide additional clarity on the truth.
I won’t spend my time here debating who “won” or “lost” CBA negotiations, as there is rarely ever a clear winner. I also won’t respond to any of the anonymous quotes, as I find it a waste of time to fight with shadows. However, there are several issues in the article that are prove-ably false or misrepresented, and I do intend to correct that misinformation. My goal is to share the facts and provide as much evidence as I can to inform our player membership.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ELECTIONS
I pulled our minutes, resolutions and documentation about the change to the process of electing the NFLPA Executive Director. After the 2015 Executive Director election was completed, the Board of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution that created a player-led committee to review our Executive Director hiring process, research applicable labor laws and evaluate the election processes of other professional sports leagues and unions. (Reported on here in Sports Business Journal)
Following a year of work, that player-led committee provided its recommendation to the Board. After further discussion among our reps, the new process was officially put to a vote. The resolution was passed with more than a 2/3 majority of our voting reps who voted for the resolution.
There’s nothing controversial about how this change was put into place - this is the process dictated by our constitution and our player leadership directed it and voted on it. Also, the article claims that the "Executive Committee changed the constitution during the regular season." In reality, the Executive Committee has no power to change the constitution. The constitution can only be changed by the Board of Reps and the resolution described above was passed at our 2016 Rep Meeting on March 16-19, which, to be clear, is NOT during any part of the NFL regular or post-season.
While we’re on the subject of how this resolution came to be accepted, I find it incredibly insulting for Cyrus Mehri to say, "you can control 14 people pretty easy." The 14 people he is referencing are some of the most well-respected men in the NFL. They consist of the 11-man Executive Committee, which is voted on by the Board of Reps to become deeply educated about union issues and represent all players on those issues. The other three players are the longest serving reps from across the league. These NFL players, your peers, have earned the respect of their locker rooms for longer than anyone else in the league. Our player leaders are not puppets who can be manipulated to appease the Executive Director.
LM-2 & DREW BREES
Drew Brees served on the Executive Committee from 2008-2014. During his tenure, he earned a reputation among NFLPA staff and his fellow player leaders as a devoted union advocate who cares fiercely about his fellow players. It’s a sentiment I echo - six years removed from being on the EC, Drew was one of the first players to reach out to me and offer support when I became NFLPA President. In any case, the article suggests Drew received (and by implication, accepted) improper funds/favors from the NFLPA while serving on the EC. After documented proof provided by our union and Drew’s agent, a review by outside “experts” and ESPN’s own conclusion of no wrongdoing, I can think of no other reason for publishing this harmful and reputation-damaging claim other than to attempt to divide the NFLPA.
REVENUE SPLIT/PLAYERS’ SHARE OF REVENUES
In the 2006 CBA, we had a different accounting process for how we determined our revenue share. We were receiving approximately 57% of "Total Revenue." This label is misleading, because it refers to all of the revenue collected MINUS what was called an "expense credit"- money that owners took off the top before we were able to split it. The leftover money was “Total Revenue.”
In 2006, the owners were removing approximately $500 million off the top. By 2009, that expense credit had doubled to $1 billion. So, although the language from that CBA states that we were receiving 57% of revenue, when accounting for the money taken off the top, our percentages were as follows:
2006 - 52.7%
2007 - 51.8%
2008 - 51.0%
2009 - 50.6%
In the 2011 CBA, we successfully closed that loophole and changed the accounting process to give us 47% of the newly defined "All Revenue." To compare the percentage of “Total Revenue” we were getting in 2006 to our percentage of “All Revenue” from 2011 without explaining these facts is comparing apples to oranges and is misleading.
WHO RUNS OUR UNION
In my time serving as a player Rep and now as President of the NFLPA, what has become most clear to me is that the NFLPA is run by players. Sure, we employ a staff to run the day-to-day operations, but our player leaders make the decisions that shape the direction of our union. The article argues that De Smith manipulated the outcome of our CBA vote that took place last March, saying that, “among those who did vote, some players had instant buyers' remorse and asked if their vote could be changed. The union said no. Smith had won.”
This is another mischaracterization of the facts. At last year’s Rep Meeting, two resolutions were submitted by players on the second day as we were discussing the voting process for the pending CBA. These resolutions were put to a vote of our player leaders. The first resolution was to extend the voting deadline in order to make sure all players had sufficient time to make an informed decision. That resolution was voted on by the Board of Reps and passed. The second resolution proposed was offered up to allow players who had already submitted a vote on the CBA to change it. That resolution was sent to a vote by the Board of Reps and it did not pass. How do I know? Because I was there, and ESPN did not even bother to reach out to me about any of this.
Let me be very clear about who has the power to make these decisions: the player reps. Our union is led by the players, for the players. We are informed, passionate men who care about protecting the best interests of the guys in our locker rooms.
I was able to dig up the facts on these issues in the last week. I find it troubling that journalists who spend multiple months “researching” these topics still can’t land remotely close to the truth, which, in this article’s case, makes me wonder if they didn't do the proper vetting and research they claimed to, or they simply chose to ignore the facts that would have taken the “scandal” out of the story.
Ultimately, all I care about is making sure you all have the facts and can evaluate the union’s work based on truth. We can and should have healthy debate and disagreement about the union’s priorities, but we can only do that when we are all operating from a foundation of truth.