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De Smith has four challengers for NFLPA position


Four weeks from yesterday, the NFLPA’s board of player representatives and Executive Committee will convene in Hawaii for their annual meeting. When they arrive, the primary task of the player representatives will be electing an executive director.

In the end, the 32 player representatives will determine the outcome, with the candidate who secures a simple majority of 17 winning the job.

Six years after DeMaurice Smith won the job in a four-way contest between Smith, Troy Vincent, Trace Armstrong, and David Cornwell, Smith currently faces a quartet of challengers: James Acho, Sean Gilbert, Andrew Smith, and John Stufflebeam. The NFLPA has now posted platforms for the four challengers at the union’s website.

The candidacy of Gilbert, a former NFL defensive lineman, has been known for months. His book, The $29 Million Tip, has been distributed to players throughout the league in the hopes of persuading them to elect him to supplant Smith.

Gilbert’s platform hasn’t changed. He contends that the 2011 labor agreement has shifted billions of dollars from the players to the owners, and his 24-point plan continues to reiterate termination of the current agreement via a collusion case. Gilbert also wants minimum salaries of $1 million for all players, the elimination of two preseason games, a one-time limit on the ability of a player to be restricted by the franchise tag, free agency after three years, limitations on Commissioner power, and consideration of an 18-game regular season.

Acho, a Michigan lawyer, submitted his platform with a cover letter that expresses his reluctance to submit a platform and that acknowledges his “long shot” status. Acho cites endorsements from the NFL Alumni Association and Gridiron Greats, which may not actually be a good thing, given inherent differences between the objectives of current and former players.

Acho’s platform advocates among other things long-term healthcare benefits for all retired players, elimination of OTAs, adoption of an 18-game regular season, retention of four preseason games, and the adoption of an independent, in-house assistance board for retirees in need.

“I do not golf, fish, hunt, ski, play fantasy sports, video games or cards,” Acho writes. “What I do is protect the interests of employees, and I assure you I will do just that for all NFL players, current and former.”

Smith, a Philadelphia lawyer, says that he has acted for the past seven years as a legal advisor to an unnamed NFL team, “handling legal issues for its Players and their familiar and interacting with the Press, Media and NFL league personnel.” He notes being featured on TV and radio and being quoted by multiple media outlets, with TMZ being the first one listed.

Smith’s platform vows to “re-organize, redirect and TRANSFORM the NFLPA to meet its original purpose and vision of representing, protecting and defending active and former NFL players.” He contends that the NFL has “concealed the true revenue and profitability of the league,” and that he will work to identify every avenue of revenue and require distribution of all streams to players. Smith suggest that 100 percent of the salary cap should be spent by all teams, that all athletic trainers should be “part of the NFLPA,” and that the players should consider an 18-game regular season.

Smith contends that the last two executive director have been “out-matched, over-powered and under-prepared to fight the NFL and its owners.”

“I have taken on and DEFEATED big businesses,” Smith writes. “I have personally out-litigated huge national law firms.”

Stufflebeam is a former NFL player -- and he rose to the rank of three-star admiral in the Navy. He primarily advocates transforming the organization from a focus on confrontation to cooperation. The bulk of his submission addresses on his experiences and credentials for the job, but it contains few details about how he would actually perform it.

“I trust these words give you a sense of who I am and what I stand for,” Stufflebeam writes. “I hope you feel me. I am ready and passionate in answering this calling to server you. As you consider who you should vote for Executive Director, I ask you to consider not the lists of ‘what we want’ that are in our platforms, but the ‘how’ will we get the job done.”

Next month, the player representatives will get the job done of determining who their Executive Director will be. Either the guy who did the job for the last six years will keep the job, or someone else will get a chance to take over.