Washington attorney Cyrus Mehri continues to question DeMaurice Smith’s leadership of the NFL Players Association in the aftermath of his failed bid earlier this year to replace Smith as the union’s executive director.
Mehri sent a report to players this week accusing Smith and the NFLPA of spending excessively on legal fees in courtroom challenges of NFL policies and disciplinary rulings that have resulted in few gains for players, in Mehri’s assessment.
“Notwithstanding the NFLPA’s representational fees, NFL players, due to the 2011 CBA and its consequences, have forfeited billions of dollars to the owners — some reports say $10 billion — and suffer under unchecked Commissioner disciplinary authority further cemented in courtroom losses,” Mehri’s report says.
The NFLPA declined to comment through a spokesman.
Mehri’s report is titled “DeMaurice Smith’s Reckless Spending, Anti-Union Choices, and Anti-Player Results.”
The report says the union has spent more than $113 million in legal expenses since 2009. The report says its figures were derived from an examination of Department of Labor filings and other publicly available sources.
According to Mehri’s report, the NFLPA spent $42 million between 2009 and 2016 on legal fees called “representational activities” regarding the sport’s collective bargaining agreement, compared to Major League Baseball’s players union spending approximately $5 million over the same span and the NBA players union spending $1.5 million.
Mehri’s report says the NFLPA “funneled almost all of those legal fees to corporate law firms that profess their anti-union bona fides on their websites.”
NFL player leaders voted in September to retain Smith as executive director and extend his contract without allowing challengers to vie for the job. Mehri previously had announced his candidacy but was barred from competing for the position under a new set of election procedures put in place by the players following Smith’s previous reelection. Mehri has been highly critical of that process.
Mehri serves as counsel of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the diversity group that works closely with the NFL on its hiring practices.
The figures cited by Mehri’s report do not include this year, so they would not reflect any legal expenses incurred by the NFLPA in its courtroom fight challenging the NFL’s six-game suspension of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott under the personal conduct policy.
The union secured a series of rulings in federal courts that prevented the league from enforcing its suspension over the first eight games of the Cowboys’ season. But after a federal judge in New York rejected the NFLPA’s latest request for an injunction for Elliott and the union failed to convince the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to put Elliott’s suspension back on hold, Elliott and the NFLPA dropped their legal challenge. Elliott has served one game of his suspension and next is eligible to play for the Cowboys on Dec. 24.
Upon dropping its legal challenge on Elliott’s behalf Wednesday, the NFLPA said in a written statement: “Our vigilant fight on behalf of Ezekiel once again exposed the NFL’s disciplinary process as a sham and a lie. They hired several former federal prosecutors, brought in ‘experts’ and imposed a process with the stated goal of ‘getting it right,’ yet the [NFL owners’] management council refuses to step in and stop repeated manipulation of an already awful League-imposed system.”
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