Barbs latest in heated NFLPA search

Updated: February 2, 2009, 9:49 PM ET
Associated Press

New York congressman Gregory Meeks on Monday accused a fellow congressman of trying to influence the process to select the NFL Players Association's next executive director in a bid to protect his daughter's job with the union.

In a telephone conference call with reporters, Meeks also refuted U.S. Rep. Jim Moran's claim last week that former NFL player Troy Vincent, a candidate for the NFLPA job, was behind a letter signed by Meeks and three other congressmen that raised questions about the union's search process. Meeks said it was another retired NFL player, receiver Willie Green, who sparked the letter.

Meeks questioned Moran's motives in publicly sharing what Meeks said was a private conversation between the two legislators, as well as revealing it to NFLPA interim executive director Richard Berthelsen. And he questioned whether Moran did so because his daughter, Mary Moran, potentially could lose her position as director of human resources if Vincent takes over the NFLPA's top job.

"It seems clear to me that [Moran's] intent is to do whatever he can to make sure that Mr. Vincent is not the executive director and that he has another candidate that he wants," Meeks said. "It seems clear ... that he decided to make this public specifically because he was biased."

Meeks' comments mark the latest chapter in what is becoming a heated process to determine who will take over the NFLPA following Gene Upshaw's death in August.

Vincent, a former union president, is one of five candidates still in contention and has been invited to the final round of interviews next week, when the NFLPA plans to pare its list to three. The three finalists will be put up for a vote at the union's meetings in Hawaii next month.

The other remaining candidates are Trace Armstrong, another former union president; former Bears tackle Jim Covert; Ben Utt, who played for Baltimore and Indianapolis; and Washington-based attorney DeMaurice Smith.

Last month, Meeks and three colleagues sent a letter to Department of Labor Secretary Elaine Chao outlining their desire to ensure the integrity of the NFLPA's election. The other congressmen who signed the letter were G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Edolphus Towns of New York and Bobby Rush of Illinois. All are Democrats, as is Moran.

The letter caught the NFLPA by surprise and was considered highly controversial because it raised questions about the integrity of its search process and had the potential to damage Vincent's candidacy if the search committee learned he had played a role in the letter being sent.

Enter Moran, who did not sign the letter but said Berthelsen asked Mary Moran to seek her father's help to discuss the letter with his four colleagues. Moran said all four members, including Meeks, noted Vincent and no one else sparked the letter.

On Monday, Moran denied Meeks' accusations and said he was not attempting to manipulate the election. Moran, of Virginia, said he stood by his comments last week that all four congressmen had said Vincent prompted the letter.

"My daughter was doing what her boss asked her to do, and I was doing what my daughter had asked me to do," Moran said, noting he previously provided information to Upshaw. "I wasn't trying to manipulate what was being said or whatever. And I'm sorry that it has blown up as it has."

Moran said he doesn't recall raising any concerns with Meeks about his daughter's job should Vincent be elected.

"My daughter can work any place she wants. She's incredibly talented," he said.

Moran did acknowledge that in his conversations with Upshaw, the former executive director was against Vincent becoming NFLPA executive director.

Vincent ended his four-year tenure as NFLPA president last spring. He was, at one point, being groomed to take over as Upshaw's successor before the two men had a falling out.

Meeks said he spoke with Moran in what he thought was a private conversation and added Moran did not initially make him aware of his daughter's position with the union.

Meeks said the letter sent to the Department of Labor was prompted by Green, who retired in 1999 after winning back-to-back Super Bowl championships with Denver. Meeks said he and Towns have worked with Green on NFL-related issues for about two years.

Meeks said he met with Vincent only at Green's invitation. After initially not recalling whether the meeting took place before or after the letter was sent to Chao on Jan. 8, a Meeks' aide checked the congressman's calendar and said the meeting took place afterward. Meeks declined to make contact information for Green available on Monday night.

Jesse McCollum, an aide to Towns, also disputed Moran's findings, saying Towns had no contact with Vincent.

Meeks added he and Towns met with NFLPA president Kevin Mawae and receiver Keenan McCardell last week and told them the same thing.

Meeks said he's now more concerned about the integrity of the election process than he was before sending the letter because of what he believes is a bid to eliminate Vincent.

"It may cause me to talk to Mr. Towns, Mr. Rush and Mr. Butterfield to say that we need to re-engage, because maybe something is going on that I don't know about," Meeks said. "It seems to me at this point that there are internal people who have concerns about who is elected and who's not elected to be the head of the players association."

Butterfield and Rush did not return several messages left with them for comment.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press