The following article was written by Cyle Kiger.

The National Football League Players Association (“NFLPA”) has filed a suit (found here) on April 17th, 2012, against the NFL Coaches Association (“NFLCA”) in the District of Columbia.

The NFLCA was established in 2005 as a membership organization and District of Columbia Corporation representing coaches in the NFL.  The NFLPA has multiple claims against the Coaches Association, the first of which is in its first decade, the NFLCA accrued $650,324.88 in debt to the NFLPA, who claims, the NFLCA failed to acknowledge the debt.

The plaintiff claims that the NFLCA has used office space, staff, administrative services and financial support that the NFLPA provided while being continually dependant on the NFLPA to pay for staff and licensing issues.

Who is the Executive Director of the NFLCA?

Two opposing sides to one issue.  The NFLCA’s standpoint is that David Cornwell, a sports lawyer, was properly appointed into the position as Executive Director.  However, the NFLPA claims that DeMaurice Smith is the Executive Director of the NFLCA.

In Cornwell’s statement, he claims that the NFLPA congratulated him on the appointment of Executive Director (NFLPA’s statement on NFLCA congratulation, here)  and promised to send the proper business records to him, which the NFLPA failed to act on that matter in a timely fashion.

The NFLCA claims that the Players Association ignored their promise and is attempting to take control of the organization through naming DeMaurice Smith as the Executive Director of the NFLCA, deceptive practices, and ignoring demands for property by the NFLCA.

Cornwell went on to say that the NFLPA along with Smith has not done anything for the coaches and that there has not been a continued support for association with the NFLPA, stating, “the lawsuit is a smoke screen to prevent the NFLCA from breaking away from the NFLPA.”

The NFLCA Constitution provides guidelines for the election of officers, which include the Executive Committee.  In short, the Constitution states that Executive Committee members serve two-year terms;  job duties of the committee include managing the business and affairs of the NFLCA between board meetings.

However, the Executive Director differs from the Executive Committee on a few points.  First, the job entitles three years of service and until his successor is qualified and elected.  Second, the position also allows the hiring of staff, as necessary, to perform the affairs of the NFLCA.

The NFLPA alleges that David Cornwell was not properly elected into the position of Executive Director.  With no evidence of the election, Cornwell produced a resolution adopted by the Executive Committee appointing Cornwell to the position until the NFLCA Board of Representatives meeting in 2013.

Shortly after taking the position, Cornwell was notified by the NFLPA that the NFLCA still owes $650,324.88 to them for costs such as salary and other expenses.  Currently, the NFLCA does not have complete control over the organization’s bank account at Amalgamated Bank that has $300,000.

The Plaintiff asks for an order to:

  • Not disburse any funds from the bank account at Amalgamated Bank under the name NFLCA.
  • Declare the NFLCA indebted to the NFLPA in the amount of $650,324.88
  • Determine whether David Cornwell is the lawfully elected Executive Director of the NFLCA
  • Awarding the debt owed to the NFLPA or imposing a lien on the funds for the NFLCA

This is an interesting case because the bigger issue at hand  is if Cornwell is Executive Director.  He came into the job because the prior Executive Director, Larry Kennan, left in December when he accepted a collegiate head coaching job.  That fact alone provides insight as to why there was no scheduled election.

Is De Smith the rightful Executive Director?  I would like to be against this, as it seems Smith is gobbling up executive positions as if he’s gunning to be the Commissioner of the NFL within the next few years.