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DeMaurice Smith re-elected as head of NFL players' union

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

By BARRY WILNER

AP Pro Football Writer

DeMaurice Smith has been re-elected as executive director of the players' union in a special committee vote.

Under guidelines passed since his last election as NFL Players Association head in 2015, a 14-player selection committee could bypass a full membership election.

That committee, made up of the 11 members of the NFLPA executive committee plus the three longest-serving player representatives, reviews the sitting executive director. That group can then call for an election to keep the incumbent in office, and the vote must be unanimous.

The 14-0 vote took place Tuesday night.

"After a comprehensive and professional process in line with our constitution," NFLPA President Eric Winston said in a statement, "the NFLPA selection committee has unanimously selected DeMaurice Smith to continue in the role of executive director. Congratulations to De and we know there is more work to be done."

Added Smith: "The union centered on player leadership. I am proud of their commitment, humbled by their trust in me and honored to serve."

But attorney Cyrus Mehri, who had launched a campaign to oppose Smith in a general election in March, called the re-election "a non-democratic process" and vowed to continue working toward having a full election of the membership in March.

"This was a very closed process," Mehri said. "This is less about me than the 2,100 players and 32 player reps who have been disenfranchised; 26 clubs didn't even have a representative on the executive committee.

"I talked to a number of player reps who were not on the executive committee and the feedback was they want a competition. Overwhelmingly, they said that I am a serious candidate.

"No one I talked to remembers having a big constitutional discussion about this (change), so it's kind of a mystery behind what happened with the amending of the constitution.

"I also feel the union has lost a lot because they don't have a leader with legitimacy because this was a non-democratic process."

A union spokesman declined to respond to Mehri's comments.

Smith was elected to the post in 2009 and led the players through the league's lockout of them in 2011. That summer, the sides reached agreement on a new 10-year CBA that included, among other things, reductions in practice and meeting times and in how much contact was allowed in those practices.

The deal also allowed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to keep his powers in overseeing fines and suspensions in a variety of areas, including personal conduct.

Smith and the union have claimed nearly ever since that Goodell has abused those powers, and they currently are fighting the league in court over Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension under the personal conduct policy.

But league spokesman Joe Lockhart on Wednesday congratulated Smith on his re-election while avoiding getting into the politics of it.

"As far as we are concerned, we congratulate him on his re-election," Lockhart said. "We think we had productive negotiations with him in 2011 with the last collective bargaining agreement and believe that agreement has worked strongly for both sides, ownership and players.

"Most important has been the joint effort to grow the game of football with things like what you saw Sunday night in Atlanta with a new stadium ... that grows the game and works for both parties.

"We've had excellent cooperation in health and safety between the league and the PA under De's leadership. Now that this is settled from the PA's point of view as far as their leadership, we hope we can sit down and look at extending the agreement.

"It certainly is not our view that, as he has expressed, that a work stoppage is inevitable. There is no reason for that, it is not in the best interest of the game."

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Updated September 20, 2017

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