Mehri’s challenge to Smith draws retired players’ support
Pro Football Hall of Famers Kellen Winslow and Harry Carson are supporting Cyrus Mehri’s candidacy for executive director of the players’ union.
The civil rights attorney who co-wrote the league’s Rooney Rule announced Tuesday that he intends to challenge DeMaurice Smith for the top job at the NFL Players Association. On Wednesday, Winslow, Carson and John Wooten backed Mehri, though they no longer are voting members of the union.
Wooten, Carson and Winslow were instrumental in the creation of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an affinity group of NFL minority coaches, scouts and front-office personnel that advocates for policy changes in the NFL hiring practices.
“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,” they said in a statement. “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.”
Smith has led the union since 2009 and directed it through the 2011 lockout and negotiations that led to a 10-year collective bargaining agreement.
“I was a team captain for 10 of my 13 seasons with the Giants,” Carson said. “I know what leadership is, and I know a leader when I see one. Cyrus is a leader. He will lead the NFLPA in the right direction. No doubt about it.”
Added Winslow: “Forging workable relationships based on mutual respect and strength is imperative between labor and management. Financial equity and having a voice in player discipline will be major issues for the next CBA. Cyrus has a long history of forging workable relationships that have always served his clients well.”
Mehri said on HBO’s “Real Sports” that he felt compelled to become a candidate for the position after examining the current CBA. Mehri says the players “went backwards economically in a massive way,” and Smith gave Commissioner Roger Goodell “a blank check” when it comes to player discipline.