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After infighting, NFLPA puts it to a vote

Union is looking for a new leader.

March 15, 2009|Sam Farmer

Who's the boss?

The NFL Players Assn. will decide today in Maui when its 32 player representatives -- one for each team -- vote in a new union head to replace the late Gene Upshaw.

The process has been anything but tidy so far, with dissension and infighting marking a search process that one candidate has called "corrosive."

The field of four candidates will be narrowed to two, then a simple majority of the representatives in attendance will decide the executive director, the fourth in the union's 41-year history.

The most daunting challenge for the new leader is helping to maintain labor peace by working out a fresh collective bargaining agreement with team owners. But also important is the issue of benefits -- or lack thereof -- provided to retired players.

The final four candidates:

Troy Vincent

A former cornerback for Miami, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Washington, he later served as president of the NFLPA. One of two retired players in the race, he is believed to be still under investigation by the union for admittedly sending to a business partner confidential information from the files of 41 high-profile agents.

Trace Armstrong

Armstrong, who played defensive end for Chicago, Miami and Oakland, was Upshaw's right-hand man in recent years. He was part of three contract negotiations with the NFL and was a union member when the NFLPA decertified in 1989 and recertified in the early 1990s. His close relationship with Upshaw could hurt him, however, because some question whether he would bring change.

DeMaurice Smith

An NFL outsider with no experience in labor law, he is a trial lawyer and litigation partner at the Patton Boggs firm in Washington. He has deep connections within President Obama's administration, and served as counsel to U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder.

David Cornwell

A former NFL attorney, Cornwell has vast experience representing players, among them Ricky Williams, Reggie Bush and the players recently accused of violating the league's drug policy by using banned weight-loss pills. Like Vincent, he was eliminated once from the search process, but he reemerged as a candidate last week after receiving written support from three NFLPA representatives.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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