Mehri, the renowned labor lawyer who helped push the NFL into adopting the Rooney Rule, has launched a campaign to overthrow Smith as the union’s executive director in March 2018.
“Competition is good,” Mehri told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s healthy to have two different visions, two different candidates to compare.”
Of course, Mehri is hardly the first to target the job that Smith assumed in 2009 and has since won two re-election terms. Yet with the collective bargaining agreement expiring after the 2020 season and Smith saying a work stoppage is “almost a virtual certainty,” Mehri thinks the timing is right for his push.
He has revealed his vision and platform on a website in which he slams litigation that the union pursued, most notably in fighting discipline in the Adrian Peterson domestic violence and Tom Brady Deflategate cases.
While Mehri points to his work as counsel for the Fritz Pollard Alliance at the foundation of professional relationships he has established with Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, and many owners and other executives, Smith’s role with the NFLPA has been wrapped in a persona that seemingly revels in fighting the NFL on various fronts, including the courtroom.
“Has that approach helped or not?” said Mehri, who spearheaded landmark settlements against Coca-Cola and Texaco in discrimination cases. “I have a much more versatile playbook and toolbox than DeMaurice Smith. I’ve been working on behalf of workers for 25 years.”
NFL players are stuck in a 10-year labor pact that has included significant growth in the salary cap since the 2011 lockout. But unlike the previous CBA that owners pulled out of, this one didn’t allow them to opt out of the deal. Mehri has outlined some noble goals, but they are clearly of the wait-and-see variety that would likely test the limits of his goodwill with NFL decision-makers.
Among objectives: He wants to reclaim billions of dollars that shifted to owners during the labor talks in 2011, reduce rookie contracts to three years and increase roster sizes to 60.
Mehri said that he made the decision to run for the NFLPA post after being urged by former players, including some Hall of Famers. It will take the vote of current players, though, to take Smith’s job as former players don’t have a stake in the election process.
Yet his campaign is on. Mehri plans to visit all 32 teams to garner support and on Tuesday night had dinner in Cincinnati with Eric Winston, the Bengals offensive tackle who is president of the NFLPA.
USA Today. Bell, J. (2017, August 23). Ousting DeMaurice Smith won’t be easy, but Cyrus Mehri offers different vision for NFLPA. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2017/08/23/cyrus-mehri-demaurice-smith-nflpa/593769001/