Russell Okung files complaint against NFLPA with NLRB

ByCameron Wolfe ESPN logo
Tuesday, March 10, 2020

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Soon-to-be Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Russell Okung has accused the National Football League Players Association of negotiating the proposed CBA in bad faith, taking the step of filing an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board on Monday.

In the filing, Okung is accusing NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith of pushing a vote on the new CBA through to the entire group of players despite the objections and vote of the NFLPA executive committee.

Okung has been among the most vocal players expressing disdain about the new proposed CBA and a potential 17-game season, and saying NFLPA-NFL negotiations are not representing players' best interests in terms of health and safety. This filing with the National Labor Relations Board, a federal government agency that enforces and protects employees against unfair labor practices, speaks to those issues.

During a February vote, the executive committee voted 6-5 not to recommend the proposed CBA to players. After a meeting with owners during the NFL combine, the executive committee again remained in majority on its desire not to recommend the proposed deal.

The NFLPA then took a vote of all 32 team player reps in Indianapolis, with the vote being 17-14 to approve the deal, with one player abstaining. The NFLPA needs a two-thirds vote to pass the deal along to the full player group with recommendation, but short of that number it decided to still move the vote to the full player group without recommendation because it received a simple majority vote to approve.

The vote on the new CBA was sent to players last Thursday. Sources told ESPN's Dan Graziano thatthe NFLPA on Monday voted down a resolution that would have allowed players who have already voted on the proposed CBA to change their votes.Enough players had asked whether they could change their votes that the NFLPA player reps, in meetings taking place in Key Biscayne, Florida, decided to propose the resolution, but it did not succeed.

The union did vote to extend the voting window by 48 hours -- until Saturday at 11:59 p.m. ET -- to allow more time for players to consider the proposal and vote via DocuSign.There needs to be just a simple majority (50% plus one vote) to pass the new proposed CBA.

"Our union learned from press reports yesterday of a charge made by an NFL player referencing a violation of constitutional process for a new collective bargaining agreement. We fully complied with our constitution, which spells out the process for the Board of Player Representatives to approve sending a proposed new collective bargaining agreement to the full membership for a vote. With respect to the other allegations reportedly in the charge, those issues were addressed by the full Executive Committee and shared with the Board of Player Representatives," the NFLPA said in a statement.

Okung had put his hat in the ring for NFLPA president on Monday but declined his nomination on Tuesday. After candidates went up to give their speeches, Okung said he didn't think he could give 100 percent to the role, cited his recent health issues and gave his support toNew York Giants safety Michael Thomasin a strong speech.

Thomas is now considered the favorite to win the presidency, a source told ESPN, with the support of Okung and Richard Sherman.

Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter and Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Sam Achoare the two other nominees for president. Voting will take place midday Tuesday.

Thomas is also a "no" vote on the CBA, while Acho is a "yes" vote. Tretter hasn't made public which way he's voting on the deal.

Sherman,Malcolm Jenkinsand Lorenzo Alexander were among others nominated who declined to run for president, a source said. Sherman, in turn, nominated Thomas.

All 32 team player reps will vote to select the new president.

There also will be a vote for a new executive committee Tuesday after the president vote. Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard is one player seeking an executive committee seat, he told ESPN.

Timing is a little awkward because voting on the new proposed CBA won't be complete until Saturday night. If the CBA is approved by a simple majority (50% plus one vote), there could be a scenario in which someone strongly against the CBA is the NFLPA president or vice versa.

Eric Winston has been the NFLPA president since March 2014, but he's not eligible for another term because he didn't play in the NFL during the 2019 season.

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