Russell Okung files complaint against NFLPA with NLRB

ByCAMERON WOLFE via <a href="" title="ESPN" class="espn_sc_byline">ESPN </a> via via logo
March 09, 2020, 3:59 PM

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 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 that the 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.

The NFL is also considering whether to push back the Thursday 4 p.m. ET deadline for teams to designate franchise and transition players, but it is not considering any change to the start of the new league year, which is set to begin March 18 at 4 p.m. ET regardless of the results of any further delays in the NFLPA voting.

The New York Times first reported Okung's filing. Smith and the NFLPA declined comment on the matter. Okung declined to speak further about the topic.

Okung also put his hat in the ring for NFLPA president Monday afternoon along with New York Giants safety Michael Thomas, Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter and Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Sam Acho, a source told ESPN.

Voting will take place midday Tuesday.

Okung, who has been a member of the NFLPA executive committee since 2018, is a clear "no" vote on the new CBA and actively has been attempting to halt this new deal. 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.

Malcolm Jenkins, Richard Sherman and Lorenzo Alexander were among those nominated who declined to run for president, a source said. Sherman, in turn, nominated Thomas.

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

There will also 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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