INDIANAPOLIS—The NFL Players Association held its annual “State of the Union” press conference at the Super Bowl Media Center Thursday, emphasizing player service, recapping an event-filled 2011 and honoring several legends for their service to the game and their fellow players.
NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, President Kevin Mawae and the Executive Committee met the media ahead of Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. Themes included the organization’s mission of serving players past, present and future as well as the importance of negotiating a successful CBA in preserving the game’s health and popularity.
“If there’s one lesson we learned over the past three years … it’s that if we don’t have the ability to stand as one, we will fail as a group of all,” Smith said.
A video honoring Mawae, Sean Morey, Tony Richardson and Mike Vrabel—outgoing Executive Committee members who have played their last football game—paid tribute to their years of service and leadership. Players spoke about their tenures and credited all players for helping grow the business of football.
Morey, who began his remarks by crediting the late John Mackey for paving the way for future generations of player leaders, said he feels “such an amazing amount of pride … to do right by our players.”
Richardson told the crowd that it was a long road to achieve labor peace, while Mawae seemed at peace with the tremendous gains he helped fight for as a two-term union president.
Among other topics discussed at the press conference were the union’s One Team One Community platform—which establishes a legacy of service to global communities—a PSA outlining the players’ role in a new Horn of Africa Famine Relief project and the union’s continuing emphasis on health and safety measures for players past, present and future.
“The NFL Players Association has always put a premium on player service,” assistant executive director of external affairs George Atallah said in his introduction.
“There will never be a day when this union will say, ‘We’ve arrived,’” Smith said. “We all must strive to continually do a better job.”
As the focus has shifted from saving the game to ways that players can help grow it, the union’s role in securing a 10-year labor deal remains important. Without the players, there is no game, and the players understand that the fans are the ones who drive the game.
During the question-and-answer portion, Smith reiterated that health and safety, an area the union has been tremendously aggressive in improving, will remain a non-negotiable issue going forward.
“We will continue to fight where we believe that fight should happen,” Smith said.
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Photos provided by Kevin Koski.