NFL Players Ready for Booming Business, NFLPA’s Howell Says –

NFL Players Ready for Booming Business, NFLPA’s Howell Says –

Today’s guest columnist is Lloyd W. Howell Jr., executive director of the NFL Players Association.

When the NFLPA Player Representative Council selected me at the end of June, it may have been a surprise to everyone in the NFL world, but not to me or our player management. To take advantage of the rapid changes in our business, I have introduced a new approach for the future of the NFL Players Association.

For example, we’re in Las Vegas for the Super Bowl and legalized gambling has well and truly entered sports, but there are other dynamics in the business that players and our association have to think about. Players come into the NFL with a better understanding of their value and are starting to talk about things like income and equity. While NFL games continued to dominate broadcast viewership last year, no one knows how media rights will change over the next three to five years.

We identified these challenges in our search process and began talking about how the union and our members can both prepare for and take advantage of these changes, if they make sense, well before our current collective agreement expires. is in the interest of our players. The reality is that change management is part of every business, and if our organization remains static in a dynamic environment, we will miss opportunities. Every contract and every agreement should serve as a guide for how we operate, not an excuse for inertia and missed opportunities.

I’m not suggesting we scrap our collective agreement, but nearly four years after it was signed, any smart business partners would be wise to look for improvements. It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that players and owners have been forced to renegotiate the 2020 CBA due to the pandemic. While thankfully we don’t have this factor, the principles of improvement, growth and adaptation should be part of our ethos.

The only way to get answers is to ask questions, and in the early months of my career, I asked a lot of them. Yes, every business and organization must adapt and evolve, but any leader who rushes to make sweeping changes or announce new initiatives without a deep understanding of the business—and in the case of our union, my membership—can create a movement without progress.

I have promised our player management team that progress will come soon, and it will come, but only after fulfilling my commitment to reach out and listen to as many key stakeholders as possible. We haven’t been static, and we’ve certainly addressed issues of concern to our membership with the NFL — securing full Total and Permanent Disability benefits for hundreds of our former players and fixing gambling penalties, for example — but we’re working hard, too. sharpening our focus to determine what might actually be possible in our future.

To understand this, I had to know our players. Between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, I met with nearly every NFL player, and common threads and themes quickly began to emerge. Yes, the expected workplace issues such as health and safety, field surfaces, penalties and fines and drug testing were raised, but our players asked many questions that started with “how” and “why”. How can we improve our economic system? Why is there no capital structure for the most important and valuable group of workers, the players? Why aren’t employees meaningfully seated at the table when decisions are made about changes to the rules of the game? Why are NFL clubs so resistant to common sense changes like switching from synthetic surfaces to consistent, high-quality grass?

There are certain liberties that can be taken as the “new guy” and during my listening tour I asked a lot of questions of our players and all of our stakeholders. I met with our former players, business partners, started conversations with agents, as well as the NFL and NFL owners. How can our community better inform you about our programs and services? What would you like to see at the next CBA? What pain points are you experiencing in your workplace that we need to address?

I also met with several NFL owners and asked them the same eager questions. Ultimately, while there can and should be a natural friction between labor and management, what everyone wants to see is a good business partnership that creates revenue for everyone and also makes the game better for our players and fans.

Accepting this new and unexpected challenge is to make a difference, and I was drawn to the mission of this association. Players clearly understand the issues they want to solve and the ever-changing landscape of our business. It is our responsibility as an association to change and evolve, so we can continue to fulfill our mission to protect our earnings and achieve the gains that have yet to be achieved for past, present and future players.

Lloyd Howell was named the fourth executive director of the NFL Players Association in June 2023. Prior to that, Howell spent more than 34 years at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., where he held various leadership roles, most recently as its chief financial officer and treasurer. He serves on the boards of Moody’s Corporation and General Electric Healthcare and is a trustee at the University of Pennsylvania. He has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Penn and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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