Cyrus Mehri says players have gone backward under Smith’s leadership

Civil right attorney Cyrus Mehri, co-author of the NFL’s Rooney Rule requiring teams to interview at least one minority candidate for any coaching or general manager openings, announced this week that he plans to challenge NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith for his job.

Mehri made the announcement on an episode of HBO’s “Real Sports,” the same show where he advocated for the implementation of the Rooney Rule three months before it became officially codified by the league in 2002. Here’s a clip of Mehri discussing his bid for the position:

Here’s a transcript of the back-and-forth between Mehri and host Bryant Gumbel at the end of the video:

CYRUS MEHRI: “The more I dug into this and saw how unfair the last CBA deal was, the more I felt I had to answer the call.”

BRYANT GUMBEL: “Going back to those negotiations, what do you think he could’ve gotten that he didn’t?”

CYRUS MEHRI: “The players went backwards economically in a massive way, and that’s hundreds of millions of dollars that were forfeited and De Smith gave the commissioner a blank check. ‘Dear Commissioner, you can do whatever you want on player discipline.’ Well, we’re gonna fix that.”

BRYANT GUMBEL: “Do you know Roger Goodell? Does he know you?”

CYRUS MEHRI: “Yes, I know him very well.

BRYANT GUMBEL: “Relationship?

CYRUS MEHRI: “Professional relationship.”

BRYANT GUMBEL: “What do you think the NFL owners, Commissioner Goodell think of Cyrus Mehri?”

CYRUS MEHRI: “Honest broker. Someone with integrity and someone who gets things done. I think I’ve earned their respect and that respect I’m gonna carry forward on behalf of the NFL players.”

Smith, meanwhile, has been the NFLPA’s executive director since being elected to the position in 2009. He was re-elected in 2012, when he ran unopposed, and again in 2015, when he beat out eight candidates that were vying for the job. He’s up for re-election again in 2018. As Mehri alluded to, Smith has been criticized for, among other things, handing Roger Goodell too much power over issues involving the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

Mehri also has the support of some prominent NFL veterans. Hall of Famers Harry Carson and Kellen Winslow Sr. and John Wooten, who played nine NFL seasons, all of whom were all instrumental in the creation of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an affinity group of NFL minority coaches, scouts and front office personnel which advocates for policy changes in the NFL hiring practices, released a joint statement on Wednesday in support of Mehri.

“As former players who have spent the bulk of our lives in the NFL community, we firmly believe that Cyrus Mehri is ideally situated to lead the NFL Players Association into the future as its next Executive Director.

“The NFLPA is a group of united workers, and many of the issues that they face are just like those that other workers in this country face: issues of health, safety, dignity, and career longevity. The players need an Executive Director who is an expert in labor and employment law and who will stand up to the NFL. Nobody is better prepared to do this than Cyrus. For his entire working life, Cyrus has been fighting corporate America on behalf of workers, and he has a track record of fearlessness and success. He has battled some of the country’s largest and most powerful corporations, such as Texaco, the Coca-Cola Company, and Ford Motor Company, and he has done wonders for their employees. As Executive Director of the NFLPA, Cyrus will do the same thing for NFL players: past, present, and future.

“We can say this with absolute confidence, because we have known and worked with Cyrus for 15 years as he has pushed the NFL and NFL Clubs on matters of fairness and equal opportunity. His work on the Rooney Rule and other workplace fairness initiatives has been instrumental in enhancing opportunities for coaches and other off-the-field employees. As NFLPA Executive Director, he will work to improve the careers of players, just as he has improved the careers of coaches, scouts and front office personnel — starting with securing the players a far better Collective Bargaining Agreement than they have now.

“Having played in the NFL, we know how important it is for players to have a strong, fearless, effective union leader with vision, new ideas and the utmost of integrity. Cyrus is that leader.”

CBS Sports. (2017, August 23). Jared Dubin. Co-author of Rooney Rule to challenge NFLPA’s DeMaurice Smith for his job. Retrieved from